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Labors of love: service employees on customer participation

Laee Choi (Department of Marketing, Hasan School of Business, Colorado State University-Pueblo, Pueblo, Colorado, USA)
Charles A. Lawry (Division of Consumer Science, College of Health and Human Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA)

Journal of Service Theory and Practice

ISSN: 2055-6225

Article publication date: 3 November 2020

Issue publication date: 27 November 2020




Very few studies have considered how customer participation (CP) influences service employees' well-being. CP may lead employees to engage in emotional labor strategies (surface/deep acting), which can elevate their job stress. Whereas surface acting involves falsifying emotions, deep acting involves empathizing with others. Therefore, the current article examines how these emotional labor strategies arise from CP and create job stress.


Study 1 is an online survey of service employees' wellbeing during CP (n = 509). Study 2 compares service employees' responses within hedonic and utilitarian service settings through a scenario-based experiment (n = 440). PROCESS was used to analyze the data in both studies.


First, study 1 supports that perceived CP increases job stress. Secondly, surface acting mediates the link between CP and job stress, but deep acting does not. Thereafter, Study 2 shows that the link between CP and job stress decreases as employee-customer identification (ECI) increases only during surface acting. Additionally, the impact of surface acting on job stress during CP is greater for hedonic services than utilitarian services, but there is no significant difference for deep acting.


This article contributes an original perspective by comparing models of service employees' responses to CP and job stress in hedonic versus utilitarian settings. Moreover, the intervening effects of ECI and emotional labor strategies on job stress, as demonstrated through these employee-facing models, offer added value to the CRM and co-creation literature.



Choi, L. and Lawry, C.A. (2020), "Labors of love: service employees on customer participation", Journal of Service Theory and Practice, Vol. 30 No. 6, pp. 585-607.



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