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Uncovering the relationship between customer anger and frontline employees’ recovery performance in the service encounter

Jia Luo (Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, Chengdu, China)
Yongqiang Li (Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, Chengdu, China)
Yu Che (Southwestern University of Finance and Economics, Chengdu, China)

Nankai Business Review International

ISSN: 2040-8749

Article publication date: 8 June 2021

Issue publication date: 8 September 2021

219

Abstract

Purpose

Regarding the interpersonal influence of customer anger on frontline employees (FLEs) in service encounters, existing findings remain mixed. Building on emotion as a social information model and appraisal theory, this study aims to focus on two dimensions of customer anger – intensity and relevance with FLEs and examined their divergent effects on FLEs’ immediate recovery performance.

Design/methodology/approach

This study conducted a questionnaire survey of 366 Chinese FLEs in the hospitality and tourism industries. Hierarchical regressions and bootstrap analysis for nonlinear mediated relationships were used to test the hypotheses.

Findings

The results suggested a U-shaped curvilinear relationship between the intensity of customer anger and FLEs’ recovery performance and a positive linear relationship between relevance with FLEs of customer anger and FLEs’ recovery performance. Moreover, the mediating effects of FLEs’ emotional anger and cognitive perceived threat were confirmed.

Practical implications

Service managers should improve FLEs’ awareness of unconscious emotional contagion and encourage them to shoulder responsibility actively even if customer anger is not related to them. In addition, complaining customers can learn how to strategically express anger to get good remedies.

Originality/value

This paper examines the divergent effects of two dimensions of customer anger on FLEs, advancing the understanding of customer anger in the service interaction. It is also the first to suggest the U-shaped nonlinear effect of customer anger intensity on employees’ service outcomes and its underlying mechanisms, reconciling mixed findings.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge research grants from National Natural Sciences Foundation of China (71372208).

Citation

Luo, J., Li, Y. and Che, Y. (2021), "Uncovering the relationship between customer anger and frontline employees’ recovery performance in the service encounter", Nankai Business Review International, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 236-257. https://doi.org/10.1108/NBRI-09-2020-0049

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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