By All Appearances the Customer was Satisfied: A Study of the Effects of Employee Features on Expected Customer Satisfaction
The concept of customer satisfaction has been very popular in recent years resulting in many studies examining factors influencing this important construct. While non-verbal communication, helpfulness and displayed emotion may provide many of the tangible cues during the service encounter, they are not available prior to the interaction. Since the service employee is likely to be one of the aspects that will affect satisfaction with the service encounter, a number of researchers are beginning to include employee factors in their studies as social variables, namely, various aspects of employee appearance that can be witnessed and evaluated even before the service employee and the customer speak. This study focuses on three aspects of employee physical appearance that can be assessed by the consumer before the actual service encounter and examines their effects on customer satisfaction. Specifically, it considers the effects of physical attractiveness, gender, and smiling on a global satisfaction rating of a hypothetical service encounter. The research was conducted as an experiment in which respondents viewed pictures of persons and rated their level of satisfaction for an imagined service interaction with the pictured “employee.” Multiple regression results showed that there was a significant relationship between the three physical appearance factors tested (gender, attractiveness and magnitude of smile) and a global rating of satisfaction. Managerial implications for these findings are provided.