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Eye Contact or Appearance?

In the realm of customer service, the dynamics between customers and employees play a pivotal role, yet empirical research into the factors influencing rapport between service providers and customers remains limited. Kawon Kim, an assistant professor at the School of Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management at the University of South Carolina, along with Melissa A. Baker, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, conducted a study to address this gap.

Their research underscores the significance of specific employee behaviors in fostering rapport and subsequently enhancing customer satisfaction. Interestingly, the study found that employee attributes like eye contact and courtesy significantly contribute to building rapport, whereas appearance surprisingly did not have a significant impact on customer–employee rapport.

Moreover, the study revealed a notable interaction effect between employee eye contact and courtesy, suggesting that these behaviors together play a synergistic role in shaping customer perceptions and satisfaction levels. This finding highlights the nuanced nature of interpersonal interactions in service encounters, particularly in high-contact sectors such as hospitality and tourism.

By shedding light on the critical role of employee behaviors—specifically eye contact and courtesy—the research provides valuable insights for managerial practices in service industries.

Understanding and fostering these behaviors among employees can potentially lead to improved customer experiences, higher satisfaction rates, and ultimately, enhanced business performance in service-oriented contexts.

The findings contribute to the existing rapport literature, offering practical implications for service managers aiming to optimize customer–employee interactions and bolster overall service quality.


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