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The influence of service employees’ nonverbal communication on customer-employee rapport in the service encounter

Cheng-Yu Lin (Department of International Business, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan)
Jiun-Sheng Chris Lin (Department of International Business, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Article publication date: 20 March 2017

Abstract

Purpose

Rapport between service employees and customers has been suggested to be an important determinant of customer relationship management, yet existing marketing literature still lacks a sufficient understanding of how service employees’ nonverbal communication affects customer-employee rapport development in service encounters. The purpose of this paper is to fill this research gap by proposing and testing a model that explores how service employees’ nonverbal communication (employee affective delivery and behavioral mimicry) influences customer positive emotions and customer-employee rapport. The mediating role of customer positive emotions and the moderating role of store atmosphere in the process of customer-employee rapport development were also assessed.

Design/methodology/approach

Using an observational methodology in conjunction with a customer survey, multi-source survey data collected from 303 customer-employee pairs in the apparel retailing industry was examined through structural equation modeling and regression analysis.

Findings

Results showed that employee nonverbal communication positively influenced customer positive emotions and customer-employee rapport. The partial mediating role of customer positive emotions and the moderating role of store atmosphere in the process of rapport development were also confirmed.

Practical implications

Service firms should train and motivate employees to use nonverbal communication to develop and strengthen customer-employee rapport. The importance of customer positive emotions in the service process should be addressed in the customer-employee rapport development process. Moreover, service managers should also allocate firm resources to create a well-designed store atmosphere for target customers.

Originality/value

This research represents one of the earliest studies to explore and empirically test the influence of employee nonverbal communication on customer-employee rapport development in service encounters. The partial mediating role of customer positive emotions and the moderating role of store atmosphere on the relationship between employee nonverbal communication and customer-employee rapport were also proposed and confirmed.

Keywords

Citation

Lin, C.-Y. and Lin, J.-S.C. (2017), "The influence of service employees’ nonverbal communication on customer-employee rapport in the service encounter", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 107-132. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOSM-08-2015-0251

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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