Observing customer stress and engagement: An intercultural perspective

Mohamed Sobhy Temerak*, Ruby Wenjiao Zhang, Cristiana Raquel Lages

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Since observing customers outnumber focal customers in most service interactions, service managers aim to engage them despite triggers, such as service incivility. This research contributes to the understanding of the role of stress in observing customers' engagement (CE). It answers two RQs: (1) What is the relationship between their stress and engagement?; (2) What are the triggers of stress? Since ethnically different people pay different levels of attention to contextual and social factors, two sequential scenario-based experiments are adopted to study two triggers of stress (i.e., availability of information about an incivility incident, and ethnic similarity between the observing customer and the mistreated employee), which impacts CE in an intercultural service encounter. Study 1 compares being exposed to full versus partial information and demonstrates that full information about the incivility incident increases observers' psychological stress, which reduces their behavioral and emotional engagement. Study 2 compares how white and black observers react to ethnic similarity between the observing customer and the mistreated employee. Results show that incivility triggers outward psychological stress in white and black observers. In turn, black observers' outward stress reduces their behavioral engagement, while white observers' behavioral engagement is reduced by both their inward and outward stress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)910-925
Number of pages16
JournalPsychology and Marketing
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • customer engagement
  • customer stress
  • ethnic similarity
  • observing customers
  • partial observation
  • service incivility


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