Emotions and Service in the Digital Age: Volume 16

Cover of Emotions and Service in the Digital Age

Table of contents

(16 chapters)

Part 1 The Digital Age


Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to introduce readers to the basic concepts and terminologies associated with the digital age, give examples of how customer service and services generally are changing as a result of digitalization, describe how emotions are being captured and used in digital communications, illustrate how people are using digital means to manage their own and workers' emotions and well-being, consider how the digital age is changing the future of services, workers, and communication between customers and organizations, and discuss some of the implications for emotions scholars and practitioners.

Design/Methodology/Approach – A literature review of recent publications on the digital age and its implications for services, work, workers, and emotions research and management.

Findings – The review covers seven areas: (1) What the digital age/economy/world is, (2) how customer service (including self-service) and services generally have changed as a result of digitalization, (3) how emotions are captured and used in social robots and digital communications, e.g., emoticons, (4) how people are using digital means (e.g., “self-tracking” and “wearables”) to manage their own emotions/feelings/well-being, (5) what some of the implications of the digital era are for emotions scholars and practitioners including methodology, (6) how people are saying the digital age will change the future of work, workers, relationships between customers and organizations, and learning, and (7) the ethical and well-being imperatives that researchers, practitioners, governments, and businesses must proactively and responsibly meet.

Practical Implications – Practically, the chapter provides information useful to five types of readers: (1) those who have emerging digital literacy or who consider themselves to be low digital natives, (2) those who are interested in understanding how customer service and services are changing because of digitalization, (3) those interested in understanding ways in which Artificial intelligence and digital tools are being used to capture and manage emotions, (4) those interested in learning how work is changing because of Industry 4.0, and (5) emotions scholars and practitioners interested in the implications of the digital world for their research and practice.


Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to introduce readers to augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and virtual reality (VR) and provide examples of some of the latest ways that researchers and practitioners are applying these digital technologies to emotions-related topics. This chapter also suggests some aspects of these technologies that emotions researchers and practitioners consider taking advantage of in their own work.

Design/Methodology/Approach The chapter draws on the first author's experience developing and implementing AR, MR, and VR for serious games applications. Examples are also drawn from recent publications in the area.

Findings – The chapter discusses the features and differences between AR, MR, and VR and some of the most popular off-the-shelf tools for researchers and practitioners. It also presents reliable and valid ways these digital technologies have been applied and can be applied.

Practical implications – Practically, this chapter provides a state-of-the-art overview of what AR, MR, and VR offer to researchers and practitioners interested in better understanding, supporting, and addressing phenomenon involving human emotion.


Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to conduct a critical literature review that examines the origins and development of research on service robots in organizations, as well as the key emotional and cognitive issues between service employees, customers, and robots. This review provides a foundation for future research that leverages the emotional connection between service robots and humans.

Design/Methodology/Approach A critical literature review that examines robotics, artificial intelligence, emotions, approach/avoid behavior, and cognitive biases is conducted.

Findings – This research provides six key themes that emerge from the current state of research in the field of service robotics with 14 accompanying research questions forming the basis of a research agenda. The themes presented are as follows: Theme 1: Employees have a forgotten “dual role”; Theme 2: The influence of groups is neglected; Theme 3: Opposing emotions lead to uncertain outcomes; Theme 4: We know how robots influence engagement, but not experience; Theme 5: Trust is necessary but poorly understood; and Theme 6: Bias is contagious: if the human mind is irrational…so too are robot minds.

Practical Implications – Practically, this research provides guidance for researchers and practitioners alike regarding the current state of research, gaps, and future directions. Importantly for practitioners, it sheds light on themes in the use of AI and robotics in services, highlighting opportunities to consider the dual role of the employee, examines how incorporating a service robot influences all levels of the organization, addresses motivational conflicts for employees and customers, explores how service robots influence the whole customer experience and how trust is formed, and how we are (often inadvertently) creating biased robots.

Part 2 Adapting to the Digital Age


Advancements in digital technology, collectively known as Industry 4.0, are profoundly changing dynamics in multiple industries. The coaching industry is impacted by this shift, as companies offering digital coaching technologies begin to take market share. To effectively serve clients in this rapidly changing market, coaches must adopt a digital mindset, upskill their capabilities, and transform their business models to leverage current and nascent technology.

Organizations are increasingly including executive coaching as part of their leadership development interventions to improve their executive leaders' abilities. Previous studies have linked outstanding leader performance to an intentionally developed relational climate. Therefore, the relational climate crafted between the coach and executive leader is critically important to create shared purpose, experience compassion, energize interactions, impact performance, and realize a quality, effective executive coaching engagement.

This is the first study to explore relational climate as a driver of coaching relationship quality. My empirical findings reflect that relational climate has a significant, positive impact on coaching relationship quality, which in turn contributes to an executive leader's effectiveness. The three goals of this study are: (1) to understand the factors that contribute to crafting a quality and effective coaching relationship; (2) to address scholarly gaps in past research regarding the relationship between a coach and client; and (3) to provide clarity for coaches how to better address, leverage, and realize an executive coaching relational climate within the context of Industry 4.0. Those crafting effective and quality coaching relationships should ensure that there is shared vision between the coach and client, that both parties demonstrate compassion, and that the coach and client each infuse the relationship with positive energy and vitality to create relational energy.


Purpose: To demonstrate how an online coaching intervention can support well-being management (mental health and mood) of medical students, by increasing psychological awareness, emotional management, and healthy/positive action repertoires.

Design/methodology/approach: A two-group randomized control trial design using a waitlist as a control was used with a sample of 176 medical students. Half were randomly assigned the 5P© coaching intervention and the remaining half assigned to the waitlist group, scheduled to receive the intervention after the initial treatment group completed the intervention. Participant baseline data on stress, anxiety, depression, positive and negative affect, and psychological capital were obtained prior to commencing the study, after completion of the first treatment group, and again postintervention of the waitlisted group, and then at the end of the year.

Findings: Coaching the students to reflect on their emotions and make solution-focused choices to manage known stresses of medical education was shown to decrease medical student stress, anxiety, and depression, thereby increasing the mental health profiles of medical students.

Research limitations/implications: The findings suggest that an online coaching tool that increases psychological awareness and positive action can have a positive effect on mental health and mood of medical students.

Practical implications: The framework developed and tested in this study is a useful tool for medical schools to assist medical students in managing their well-being, thereby decreasing the incidence and prevalence of mental illness in medical students. The implications of this research are significant in that positively affecting the psychological well-being of medical students could have a significant effect not only on each medical student but also on every patient that they treat, and society as a whole. Better mental health in medical students has the potential to decrease dropout rates, increase empathy and professionalism, and allow for better patient care.

Originality/value: This study contributes to the literature on online coaching for improved psychological well-being and emotional regulation, mental health, and medical students. It is one of the first studies using a coaching protocol to make a positive change to the known stress, anxiety, and depression experienced by medical students worldwide.


Purpose – We aim to elucidate the influence of leaders' emotion expressions on the social distance between leaders and followers in face-to-face and digital communication.

Design/methodology/approach – Literature review

Findings – Following functional theories on emotions, leaders' expressions of socially engaging emotions (e.g., guilt, happiness, gratitude, and compassion) lower social distance. Leaders' expressions of socially disengaging emotions (e.g., anger, contempt, disgust, and pride) increase social distance. In digital communication, we propose that the effect of socially engaging and disengaging emotions depends on the social presence that is provided by the different digital communication media.

Practical implication – Based on our theoretical model, we derive implications for (1) leaders' use of face-to-face communication, (2) the importance of digital communication with high social presence, (3) leaders' use of digital communication as a tool for emotion regulation, and (4) coping strategies when communicating via digital means with low social presence.


Purpose: To outline recent developments in digital service delivery in order to encourage researchers to pursue collaborations with computer science, operations research, and data science colleagues and to show how such collaborations can expand the scope of research on emotion in service delivery.

Design/methodology/approach: Uses archived resources available at http://LivePerson.com to extract data based in genuine service conversations between agents and customers. We refer to these as “digital traces” and analyze them using computational science models.

Findings: Although we do not test significance or causality, the data presented in this chapter provide a unique lens into the dynamics of emotions in service; results that are not obtainable using traditional research methods.

Research limitations/implications: This is a descriptive study where findings unravel new dynamics that should be followed up with more research, both research using traditional experimental methods, and digital traces research that allows inferences of causality.

Practical implications: The digital data and newly developed tools for sentiment analyses allow exploration of emotions in large samples of genuine customer service interactions. The research provides objective, unobtrusive views of customer emotions that draw directly from customer expressions, with no self-report intervention and biases.

Originality/value: This is the first objective and detailed depiction of the actual emotional encounters that customers express, and the first to analyze in detail the nature and content of customer service work.

Part 3 Emotions and Care in the Digital Age


Purpose: The Internet provides patients easy access to scientific information originally, limited to medical professionals. However, this information may not be entirely relevant to the patient’s context. Therefore, doctor–patient conversations need to contextualize this information to the specific circumstances of the patient’s illness. A problem exists insofar as this conversation may not always meet the patient’s expectations. Interpersonal competence, an important aspect of emotional intelligence, is therefore critical for medical practice in the digital era. “Medicine” is viewed as a “masculine” profession requiring competence, while compassion as “feminine”. Gender stereotyped socialization prescribes gender - congruent emotional display norms for men and women thereby, influencing both gender behavior and emotions. Psychological androgyny is the coexistence of masculine and feminine behavior traits in the same individual irrespective of biological sex. This leads to responses, which are appropriate for situations irrespective of biological sex, rather than gender-stereotyped behaviour. In this study, I explored the role of gender personality and interpersonal competence in doctor–patient interaction.

Design/ methodology/approach: Sixty Indian doctors across different specializations completed the self-report format of emotional intelligence appraisal (Emotional Intelligence Appraisal-EIA) as measure of interpersonal competence and Bem’s Sex role Inventory (BSRI) as a measure of psychological androgyny.

Findings: Psychologically androgynous doctors scored significantly higher on interpersonal competence than non-androgynous doctors.

Practical implication: Since both male and female doctors undergo similar training, there is a need to explore in greater depth the nature of the relationship between androgynous gender behaviors in doctors and corresponding interpersonal competence correlates, to understand their impact on patient care and healthcare related outcomes for both patients and doctors. This is especially critical because, in addition to increasing incidents of violence against doctors in Internet-empowered world, previous research also points to varying patient outcomes and legal complications based on biological sex of doctors.


Purpose: This chapter explores how organizations can influence the emotional climate surrounding change, and thereby encourage the emergence of positive rather than negative emotions. Despite growing literature, many companies struggle with postacquisition integration. In the last 3 decades, the discussion has turned toward how employees' emotions complicate the process. This chapter discusses those emotions, paying special attention to the emotional climate surrounding change. The focus is on examining how an organization's emotional climate influences employees' emotions following an acquisition.

Design/methodology/approach: The chapter takes the acquired company point of view, following a German–Finnish deal completed in January 2017 over 1 year. Data were collected through interviews (totaling 26), daily memo-like diaries (65 entries), and an employee satisfaction survey (56 respondents).

Findings: The findings reveal that employees are likely to have emotional reactions even when relatively little integration is intended. In addition, the surrounding emotional climate – whether positive or negative – is likely to trigger similarly valenced emotions. The theoretical contribution of this chapter lies in the introduction of emotional climate rather than organizational culture as a key factor for employees during the early integration period.

Practical implication: Particularly line managers have an important role in maintaining positivity. For positivity to dominate, organizations need to make the benefits of the deal and the future of the company clear to the employees.


Purpose – We build a theoretical lens that draws on an emerging theory of positive work relationships to examine whether constructive emotional expressions in work relationships influence changes in individuals' affective commitment to their organization.

Design/methodology/approach – Using longitudinal data collected from full-time employees, we employed a latent-difference-score (LDS) approach to examine whether changes in emotional carrying capacity could account for changes in organizational commitment.

Findings – The findings support this hypothesis and suggest a new perspective on the ways in which a change in relationship capacity may create changes in people's commitment to an organization.

Research limitations – The main limitation concerns the use of self-report, albeit time-lagged, data.

Practical implications – Developing higher levels of employee affective commitment is a key challenge for many organizations. Our study can help managers in recognizing the importance of building a relational space in which employees are able to express emotions frequently and openly, as well as engaging with other employees in listening to their emotional experiences and responding in a constructive manner.

Originality/value – This study contributes to an emergent body of literature that adopts a positive psychology lens to the study of employee experiences at work, by investigating the capacity to express emotions in general and its influence on people's affective commitment to the organization.


Purpose – The aim of this study is to determine the impact of feeling bored on managers' decision-making in the digital age under conditions of increased uncertainty by examining the role of personality trait openness and empirically testing such relationships within the context of retail middle managers.

Design/methodology/approach – Feeling bored was defined within a broader Decision-Making Process Model, which included the personality trait openness. An empirical study with retail middle managers was conducted to examine the relationships between feeling bored and decision-making competence (DMC). Regression models were fit to test whether feeling bored affects DMC and whether the associations were moderated by personality trait openness.

Findings – In the relationship between feeling bored and DMC, the moderating role of the personality trait openness was established. Results showed that feeling bored has a significant negative association with middle managers' confidence levels and risk perceptions when making decisions. Results also provided evidence that the learning component of personality trait openness plays a moderating role in the relationship between feeling bored and DMC. Most notably, the learning component of personality trait openness neutralizes the negative effects of feeling bored on managers' ability to remain appropriately confident when making decisions. In addition, the learning and inquisitive components temper the positive association between mood excited and risk perceptions. Limitations to the study are outlined.

Practical implications – Since trait openness (specifically its learning component) benefits decision-making contexts, it makes trait openness a worthy criterion to include when screening aspirant retail middle managers. The benefits of trait openness (specifically its learning component) for middle managers and their teams (especially when they are feeling bored) are indicated, since learning neutralizes the negative effect feeling bored has on appropriate confidence levels in retail management decision-making contexts.


Purpose – This chapter explores the m+eaning and significance of family business social responsibilities (FBSRs) using a metasystem approach, placing emphasis on the role of the family.

Design/Methodology/Approach – We employ a revelatory case study to investigate the complexity of family business (corporate) social responsibility. The main case, a German shoe retailer, is supplemented by other case illustrations that provide additional insights into FBSR.

Findings – To fully understand social responsibility in a family firm context, we need to include social initiatives that go beyond the actual family business as a unit. This FBSR connects family members outside and inside the business and across generations. As FBSR is formed through individual and family-level values, its character is idiosyncratic and contrasts the often standardized approaches in widely held firms.

Practical Implication – Family businesses need to go beyond the business as such when considering their engagement in social responsibility. Family ownership implies that all social initiatives conducted by family members, regardless if they are involved in the firm or not, are connected. This includes a shared responsibility for what family members do at present and have done in the past.

Cover of Emotions and Service in the Digital Age
Publication date
Book series
Research on Emotion in Organizations
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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