, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 449-466

Multiple emotional contagions in service encounters

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Abstract

This paper investigates the dynamic impact of multiple sequential emotional displays by employees on customers’ negative emotions. Using video-based stimuli to manipulate emotional displays by employees, this study shows the sequential occurrences of negative and positive emotional contagions in service failure and recovery encounters. The results suggest that higher levels of employees’ negative emotional displays lead to a greater increase in customers’ negative emotions through the process of negative emotional contagion during service failure. More importantly, we find that positive emotional displays by employees can decrease customers’ negative emotions through the process of positive emotional contagion during service recovery, i.e., higher levels of employee positive emotional displays lead to a greater decrease in customers’ negative emotions. In addition, no matter whether customers experience higher or lower levels of employee positive emotional displays during service recovery, their final negative emotions cannot fully return to their emotional levels prior to service failure. However, for customers experiencing higher levels of employee positive emotional displays, their final negative emotions can be greatly mitigated and are closer to their initial emotional levels, as compared to customers experiencing lower levels of employee positive emotional displays. The results further indicate that susceptibility to emotional contagion increases the effect of employees’ negative (positive) emotional displays on customers’ negative emotions during service failure (recovery). The findings of this study suggest that service firms should provide effective training to their frontline service employees so that they can display proper positive emotions during service encounters.