Original Research

An assessment of consumers’ subconscious responses to frontline employees’ attractiveness in a service failure and recovery situation

Christo Boshoff
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 20, No 1 | a1612 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v20i1.1612 | © 2017 Christo Boshoff | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 May 2016 | Published: 13 June 2017

About the author(s)

Christo Boshoff, Department of Business Management, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa


Background: Initial analyses of the impact of physical attractiveness in a business context have supported the ‘what is beautiful is good’ contention. However, in circumstances characterised by negative emotions, duress and stress, very little is known about how human beings respond at the subconscious level to the attractiveness of frontline service providers.

Aim: The purpose of this study was to assess whether consumers who complain to a frontline service provider about a service failure respond differently at the subconscious level when the service provider involved in the service encounter is attractive compared with one who is less attractive.

Method: Forty respondents were exposed to a video clip of a service failure and service recovery situation. While viewing the hypothetical scenario, two neuro-physiological measurements were used to collect data at the subconscious level, namely galvanic skin response (GSR) and electroencephalography (EEG).

Results: The results suggest that, at the subconscious level, customers respond differently to the service recovery efforts depending on the attractiveness of the frontline service provider who attempts to rectify the service failure.

Conclusion: The results seem to suggest that the physical attractiveness of a frontline service provider moderates (or softens) the negative emotions that a complaining customer might experience during a service failure and complaint situation – consistent with the ‘what is beautiful is good’ contention.


service recovery; neuro-physiological research; physical attractiveness


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Crossref Citations

1. The use of electrodermal activity (EDA) measurement to understand consumer emotions – A literature review and a call for action
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