Title: Understanding nature of empathy through the lens of service encounter: a phenomenological study on FLE's

Authors: Michael Sony; Nandakumar Mekoth; K.K. Therisa

Addresses: Department of Mechanical Engineering, Namibia University of Science and Technology, Windhoek, Namibia ' Faculty of Management Studies, Goa University, Goa, India ' Dhempe College of Arts and Science, Miramar, Panaji, Goa, India

Abstract: Research suggests that every conceptual model of service organisations in the past 20 years has recognised that front line employees (FLEs) significantly influence the customer experience. In service front line employee and customer interaction, little is understood about the nature of empathy as a cognitive, an affective, or a multidimensional phenomenon. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the multidimensional nature of empathy. This phenomenological study focuses on how the theoretical discussion of the cognitive-affective nature of empathy finds expression in a service encounter. Conclusions in this study point to the ending that empathy has different meanings for different service frontline employees, when they are empathising with another customer. In probing the way service frontline employees experience empathy, it seems that both cognitive and affective aspects of this experience play a significant role and may appear either collectively or separately. The study provides some initial evidence on the conceptualisation of empathy and present findings add to the literature by focusing on the intrapersonal world of FLE's and examining how their empathetic behaviour relates to the customer.

Keywords: service encounter; emotional empathy; cognitive empathy; service front line employees; phenomenological research.

DOI: 10.1504/IJPQM.2018.088608

International Journal of Productivity and Quality Management, 2018 Vol.23 No.1, pp.55 - 73

Received: 13 May 2016
Accepted: 12 Nov 2016

Published online: 23 Nov 2017 *

Full-text access for editors Access for subscribers Purchase this article Comment on this article