Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Role of Emotion in the Relationship between Customers and Automobile Salespeople

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Role of Emotion in the Relationship between Customers and Automobile Salespeople

Article excerpt

Customers frequently experience various kinds of emotion, such as excitement, joy, pleasure, contentment, worry, frustration, or angel, while interacting with salespeople (Machleit and Eroglu, 2000; Kidwell et al., 2007; Menon and Dube, 2000). For instance, they might have negative feelings when salespeople are insincere, aggressive, and suspicious, or positive feelings when salespeople are friendly, trustworthy, and empathic. Customers who experience positive emotion tend to be satisfied with and loyal to the salespeople (Reynolds and Beatty, 1999a).

Previous studies that have focused on the salespeople's role in buyer-seller relationships have been problematic vis-a-vis customer emotion (Wakefield and Blodgett, 1999; Yoo el al., 1998). Those researchers have taken a constricted view of the influence salespeople have on customer emotion. That is, they have not considered salespeople as having an impact on customer emotion or the impact of customer emotion on other variables. Also, past work has not explained how emotion is aroused when customers interact with salespeople. Additionally, extant work has not clearly drawn a distinction between emotion and satisfaction and their possible causal relationships. In fact, many studies have attempted to measure satisfaction by using feeling/emotion statements (White and Yu, 2005) such as displeased/pleased and unhappy/happy (Price and Arnould, 1999), disgusted/contented, frustrating/enjoyable (Reynolds and Beatty, 1999a), or delighted/terrible (Bitner, 1990).

Given the foregoing, the purpose of the present study is to develop and test a model regarding the relationships among the characteristics of automobile salespeople, customer emotion, customer satisfaction with the relationship with the salesperson, and customer intention to maintain the relationship with the salesperson. A model is presented of customer emotions that arise during buyer-seller interactions.


A conceptual model of customer emotions that arise during the customer-salesperson interaction is presented in Figure 1. The model postulates that customers' emotional responses and behaviors are influenced by their perceptions of the experience they have with a particular salesperson during the buying process. The mechanism that underlies the arousal of emotions is known as the appraisal process. Customers might have positive or negative emotion resulting from the way they appraise their interaction with salespeople. The central assumption of appraisal theory is that emotional responses or reactions are a function of an individual's cognitive appraisal process (Forgas, 2000; Ruth et al., 2002; Smith and Kirby, 2000). The evaluation and perceived significance of situations determine whether an emotion is aroused (Lazarus, 1991 ; Ortony et al., 1988).

During customer-salesperson interaction, customers might appraise the salesperson's overall service, behavior (actions), and attributes, and then compare these assessments with their own standards. The assessment can then lead to development of an emotion. An emotion, in turn, is proposed to influence customers' assessment of their satisfaction with the relationship. Once an emotion is elicited, it can influence customer judgment. In general, past findings indicate that customers are likely to evaluate a target favorably when they have positive affect, but they are likely to evaluate it unfavorably when they have negative affect (Clore et al., 1994; Forgas, 1992). Therefore, the model proposes that emotion has an impact on the interpersonal relationship between customers and salespeople.

Positive vs. Negative Emotions

This study considers positive and negative emotions to be two distinct, independent concepts rather than opposite endpoints of a continuum. Extant research supports this presupposition. First, positive emotion has been observed to be only weakly correlated with negative emotion (Barrett and Russell, 1998). …

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