Dissertations and theses : Doctoral thesis
Business & economic sciences : Marketing
Delcourt, Cécile mailto [Université de Liège - ULiège > HEC-Ecole de gestion : UER > UER Management >]
Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen - Université de Liege, ​Nijmegen (NL) - Liege (B), ​​Belgium - The Netherlands
the degree of doctor in Management Sciences
van Riel, Allard
Pahud de Mortanges, Charles mailto
van Birgelen, Marcel
de Moerloose, Chantal mailto
[en] Emotional competence ; emotional intelligence ; customer emotions
[en] The present dissertation is based on three studies, sharing one common theme: employee emotional competence (EEC). The overall aim of this dissertation is to examine the effect of customer perceptions of employee emotional competence on their evaluations of critical service encounters. To achieve this goal, each study builds a theoretical framework and presents empirical assessments of aspects of the issue under consideration. While psychology scholars have conceptualized, measured, and evaluated the impact of EEC in work-related relationships (i.e., internal perspective of EEC), the role of EEC in customer-related relationships (i.e., service encounters) has received little attention by marketing scholars. We argue in this dissertation that a customer perspective of EEC is necessary to examine EEC in such context. Recent studies in the service literature have suggested that EEC could be valuable in service encounters–especially in critical service encounters since customers want employees to recognize the uniqueness of their personal experience (Price et al., 1995b). Given the potential influential role of EEC in a marketing context, researchers have called for further investigation (Kidwell et al., 2011; Verbeke et al., 2008).
Therefore, this dissertation approaches the concept of EEC by first focusing on emotional competence (i.e., the actual demonstration of emotionally competent behaviors by the employee) instead of emotional intelligence (i.e., the potential one employee has to demonstrate emotionally competent behaviors). In this respect, we examine customer perceptions–rather than employee perceptions or supervisor perceptions of EEC–since these last measures are subject to important biases and since only customers can evaluate if the employee has actually displayed emotionally competent behaviors during the service encounter. More specifically, the focus is on the exploration of EEC and its effects on customer outcomes. Based on a review of the literature from various disciplines and research streams, comprehensive models are constructed, summarizing theoretical propositions and hypotheses.
The first study examines in a field study the impact of customer perceptions of EEC on customer satisfaction and loyalty in high-contact services. The mediating role of rapport is examined. We found that EEC influence both customer satisfaction and loyalty. Rapport mediates both relationships. The second study aims to conceptualize EEC in service encounters and to develop a short, valid, and reliable measure based on that conceptualization. By using a rigorous scale development procedure, we define EEC as customer perceptions of employees’ abilities to perceive, understand, and regulate customer emotions in a service encounter to ensure harmonious encounters. This measure of EEC is strongly related to key customer outcomes such as customer satisfaction. The third study aims to understand in an experimental design the role of EEC compared to employee technical competence (ETC) in emotionally charged service encounters. We found that EEC moderates the relationship between ETC and customer outcomes such as negative customer emotions, rapport, and service encounter satisfaction. When EEC is low, the impact of ETC on those variables is low or even non significant. When EEC is high, ETC strongly influences those customer outcomes.
Together, the three studies provide rich insights on the impact of EEC on customer outcomes in a service encounter context. To improve the customer’s experience in service encounters, managers should encourage their contact employees to display emotionally competent behaviors by perceiving, understanding, and regulating customer emotions. When employees have high EEC, the impact of ETC on customers is the highest. Rapport mediates the relationship between EEC and key customer outcomes such as customer satisfaction and loyalty.

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