The role of emotion in service evaluation

Anna Essén (School of Business, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden)
Solveig Wikström (School of Business, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden)

Managing Service Quality: An International Journal

ISSN: 0960-4529

Publication date: 21 March 2008



This paper aims to explore the role of emotions in consumers' evaluations of service quality.


The study uses empirical qualitative data from in‐depth interviews with 26 senior citizens who are consumers of long‐term residential care services in a Swedish rural community. The empirical findings are analysed inductively in terms of dimensions derived from the literature on the role of emotions in consumers' evaluations of service quality.


When explaining their overall evaluations of service quality, the respondents referred exclusively to service dimensions that had evoked emotional reactions. However, although these service dimensions were the only ones to influence the consumers' perceptions of service quality, respondents tended to reflect about these dimensions in a cognitive manner. The remaining service dimensions, which did not evoke any emotional memories, did not influence the respondents' perceptions of the overall quality of services rendered.

Research limitations/implications

Emotional reactions can direct the attention of consumers to certain service dimensions, and subsequently trigger cognitive evaluations of these dimensions. The emotional and cognitive responses of consumers to services are thus interrelated. More research is needed into the mechanism of this interaction.

Practical implications

Service providers should recognise that consumers' emotional and cognitive reactions are intertwined. For providers of aged‐care services, this study suggests certain service dimensions that are worthy of further attention in seeking positive evaluations of services from users.


Previous research has tended to distinguish between emotional and cognitive evaluations of services. This study challenges this distinction by demonstrating that dimensions that have traditionally been viewed as “non‐emotional” can be influenced by “emotional” reactions. Thus, the study shows that “emotional bias” can lead to some dimensions having a disproportionate influence on overall evaluations of service.



Essén, A. and Wikström, S. (2008), "The role of emotion in service evaluation", Managing Service Quality: An International Journal, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 147-162.

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