Buffering the negative effects of employee surface acting: the moderating role of employee-customer relationship strength and personalized services.J Appl Psychol. 2014 Mar; 99(2):341-50.JA
The impact of emotional labor on customer outcomes is gaining considerable attention in the literature, with research suggesting that the authenticity of emotional displays may positively impact customer outcomes. However, research investigating the impact of more inauthentic emotions on service delivery outcomes is mixed (see Chi, Grandey, Diamond, & Krimmel, 2011). This study explores 2 potential reasons for why the service outcomes of inauthentic emotions are largely inconsistent: the impact of distinct surface acting strategies and the role of service delivery context. Drawing on social-functional theories of emotions, we surveyed 243 dyads of employees and customers from a wide variety of services to examine the links between employee surface acting and customer service satisfaction, and whether this relationship is moderated by relationship strength and service personalization. Our findings suggest that faking positive emotions has no bearing on service satisfaction, but suppressing negative emotions interacts with contextual factors to predict customers' service satisfaction, in line with social-functional theories of emotions. Specifically, customers who know the employee well are less sensitive to the negative effects of suppressed negative emotions, and customers in highly personalized service encounters are more sensitive to the negative effects of suppressed negative emotions. We conclude with a discussion of theoretical and practical implications.