Emotion regulation in service encounters: are customer displays real?

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Purpose: Despite recognition of the importance of emotions and emotion regulation in service encounters, emotion regulation has been generally studied from an employee perspective. This study investigated customer emotion regulation behaviours (CEREBs) in face-to-face service encounters; arguing for a more nuanced approach through an emotion regulation matrix representing the playing up and downplaying of positive or negative emotions. Motivational factors and service-related situational conditions that influence the likelihood of emotion regulation were also examined. Design/methodology/approach: Four focus groups and the critical incident technique method were used to obtain data from people who had interacted with service employees within the previous six months. Findings: There was support for emotion regulation in the four facets of the emotion regulation matrix. Five CEREB dimensions, including verbal behaviours and facial expressions, were evident. Motivational factors and situational conditions that impacted on customer emotion regulation in service encounters were also identified. Research limitations/implications: The findings were based on two qualitative methods. A quantitative approach should be used to further validate the suggested framework. Originality/value: Most research on emotion regulation has focused on employees. We examined the phenomenon from a customer viewpoint and in a service encounter context. As customers are not bound by employment rules and conventions, a wider range of emotion regulation behaviours were found. The study used the four-faceted emotion regulation matrix to investigate this, developing a conceptual framework that provides a foundation for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-194
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Service Theory and Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2020


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