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More Than Happy to Help? Customer-Focused Emotion Management Strategies


  • We thank Jim Quick and Mark Rosenbaum for helpful comments on drafts of this manuscript. An earlier draft of this manuscript was presented at the 2010 Academy of Management Meeting in Montreal, Canada.

Laura M. Little, Department of Management, Terry College of Business, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602;


This paper investigates the impact of customer service representative (CSR) customer-focused emotion management strategies on expressed customer emotions, beyond the influences of emotional contagion. We propose that problem-focused strategies (situation modification and cognitive change) are likely to reduce the intensity of negative customer emotions and increase the intensity of positive customer emotions, whereas emotion-focused strategies (attentional deployment and modulating the emotional response) will have the opposite impact. Further, we propose that customer negative emotions will affect the choice of strategies CSRs employ. Based on evaluator ratings of recorded customer service calls (N= 228), our findings confirmed the positive effects of problem-focused strategies and the negative effects of emotion-focused strategies on customer-expressed emotions. In addition, we found that initial customer emotions affected the strategy used by the CSR, whereby negative emotions expressed by the customer reduced the use of the most effective strategy and increased the use of the least effective strategy.