Not all smiles are created equal: Investigating the effects of display authenticity and service relationship on customer tipping behavior

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International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, ISSN: 0959-6119, Vol: 26, Issue: 2, Page: 293-306

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Milos Bujisic; Luorong (Laurie) Wu; Anna Mattila; Anil Bilgihan
Business, Management and Accounting; Display authenticity; Friendliness; Service relationship; Service; satisfaction; Tipping; EMOTIONAL LABOR; SOCIAL NORM; RESTAURANT; ENCOUNTERS; PERSONALITY; EMPLOYEE; QUALITY; ROLES; TIP; DETERMINANTS; Hospitality; Leisure; Sport & Tourism; Management
article description
Purpose: While a layman's theory supports the view that "a smile goes a long way," the authors argue that "not all smiles are created equal" in the sense that the server's smiles need to be genuine and authentic, in particular when the customer has a relationship with the server. The purpose of this study is to test such hypotheses. Design/methodology/approach: A 2 (display authenticity: authentic vs inauthentic) by 2 (state of service relationship: existing service relationship vs no service relationship) experiment was used to test the proposed hypotheses. In total, 768 surveys were distributed and 278 responses were received. Two-way ANOVA analyses were deployed. Findings: Data collected from customers reveal that authentic smiles have a direct positive impact on customers' willingness to tip. Further, such an effect is even stronger when the customer has an existing relationship with the server. Research limitations/implications: Servers should receive appropriate training regarding "deep acting" techniques. The most important limitation is the use of written scenarios as stimuli. Practical implications: Showing an authentic smile can be an effective tip-collecting strategy. Employees who are in contact with guests and customers should not only be instructed to provide service with a smile but should also be advised to make that smile appear authentic. Therefore, appropriate training of frontline employees, regarding authenticity of smiles, could be beneficial both for the company and for the employees themselves. Originality/value: No research has been done investigating whether authentic smiles generate larger tips and if so, whether any boundary conditions exist for such effects. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.