Journal of Business and Psychology

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 37–50 | Cite as

The Value of a Smile: Does Emotional Performance Matter More in Familiar or Unfamiliar Exchanges?

  • Allison S. GabrielEmail author
  • Jennifer D. Acosta
  • Alicia A. Grandey



The purpose was to understand how service familiarity (i.e., the familiarity of the customer with the employee and service provided) operates as a boundary condition for the impact of employee positive emotional displays on service performance.


In Study 1, we assessed whether service familiarity (as rated by employees) moderated the relationship of employee-reported positive emotional displays and coworker ratings of service performance. In Study 2, through observed employee–customer exchanges, we tested whether customer-reported familiarity with the service context moderated the relationship between third-party-observed employee positive emotional displays and customer ratings of transaction satisfaction and employee friendliness.


Employee positive emotional displays had the strongest influence on evaluations of performance under low familiarity contexts. Thus, positive emotional displays served as a signal of good performance when there was limited preexisting information about the employee.


Service performance evaluations may be less influenced by employee positive emotional displays when the customer has a familiar relationship, suggesting that such displays from the employee are not always necessary. However, for encounters, employee positive emotional displays are more critical for signaling high quality service performance.


This combination of studies is among the first to isolate the influence of service familiarity at two different levels of conceptualization and measurement using multi-source ratings of service performance.


Emotional labor Emotional displays Service familiarity Service performance 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Allison S. Gabriel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jennifer D. Acosta
    • 2
  • Alicia A. Grandey
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of ManagementVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA
  2. 2.Allstate Insurance CompanyNorthbrookUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyThe Pennsylvania State UniversityUniversity ParkUSA

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