Effect of Employee Empathy on Service Loyalty Through the Development of Trust in and Satisfaction With Service Employee During Service Interactions

Effect of Employee Empathy on Service Loyalty Through the Development of Trust in and Satisfaction With Service Employee During Service Interactions

Waseem Bahadur (University of Science and Technology of China, China)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCRMM.2020010103

Abstract

This study examines the indirect effect of employee empathy on service loyalty through the intervening effect of trust in and satisfaction with service employees during service interactions. Data was obtained through a self-administered questionnaire from university students. 410 useable responses were used to perform data analysis. Confirmatory factor analysis, structural equation modeling, and bootstrapping for indirect effects were conducted to test the hypotheses. The results show a significant impact of employee empathy on trust in service employee and satisfaction with service employee during customer-employee interactions. Also, satisfaction with a service employee showed a significant effect on service loyalty during service interactions. The study enhances the understanding of empathy within banking services during interactions between service employee and customer. It also provides insights for service managers and frontline service employees on how empathy develops customer's trust and satisfaction with a service employee.
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Introduction

Services play an essential part in today’s aggressive business environment and are difficult to manage due to their intangible nature (Bahadur, Aziz, & Zulfiqar, 2018). It is complicated for a customer to appraise service and is also challenging for a service firm to provide the service beyond customer’s expectations (Brady, Bourdeau, & Heskel, 2005). As service is co-produced by the customer and a service firm during the process of service delivery, it is necessary to fulfill customers desires during provision of services (Fellesson & Salomonson, 2016). Customers are directly affected through employee’s attitude and behavior affecting their satisfaction and loyalty. Therefore, for successful service delivery, it is indispensable for a service employee to adopt such traits and behaviors that positively affects customer’s satisfaction (Itani & Inyang, 2015). Employee knowledge, empathy, expertise, and reliability are considered as essential traits for successful service performance (Rod, Ashill, & Gibbs, 2016).

Upon visualizing a personal service setting, for instance, a hotel, bank, or restaurant service, it can be noticed that customer’s and frontline service employees interact with each other to produce a service. During such interactions, if service employee provides extra courtesy, consideration, and compassion, then such communications will likely be able to lead towards a satisfying service encounter (Fellesson & Salomonson, 2016). Authors further elaborate that, in contrast, if during such interactions there is a lack of individual association and incapability of service employee to take customers point of view then it could lead towards customer’s dissatisfaction or result into anger and annoyance. Hence, during service interactions, adoption of employee empathy, a personal trait of frontline service employee can lead to building trust in and satisfaction with the service employee (Aggarwal, Castleberry, Ridnour, & Shepherd, 2005).

Previous studies considered empathy as a significant characteristic of service employees and have been examined in various service settings (Rod et al., 2016). Moreover, studies in the sales and marketing literature have emphasized on the empathic behavior of employee for the success of service brand (Fellesson & Salomonson, 2016). Particularly, previous research advocates that frontline employees’ concern, as well as consideration for the customer stimulates customer satisfaction (Markovic, Iglesias, Singh, & Sierra, 2018). Employee empathy as a positive trait can build trust and increase customer satisfaction with the service employee that could further lead to service loyalty (Aggarwal et al., 2005). Therefore, it is vital for a service employee to espouse empathic behavior throughout employee-customer interactions. Moreover, display of such trait that increases customer trust and satisfaction with service employee during interactions results into successful service encounter (Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Berry, 1988). Considering the above literature, employees’ traits can play essential role towards building a sustained relationship with the service brand (Umasuthan, Park, & Ryu, 2017).

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