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The importance of attitude and appearance in the service encounter in retail and hospitality

Nickson, D.P. and Warhurst, C. and Dutton, Eli (2005) The importance of attitude and appearance in the service encounter in retail and hospitality. Managing Service Quality, 15 (2). pp. 195-208. ISSN 0960-4529

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For service organisations the interaction between front-line personnel and the customer is crucial as they aim to create high quality service encounters. Much research has focused on attempts by organisations to inculcate the "right" kind of attitude in their front-line employees. This paper seeks to extend this analysis by pointing to the increasing importance not just of having employees with the "right" attitudes, but also possessing aesthetic skills. The emergence of aesthetic skills reflects the growing importance of aesthetic labour in interactive services. That is, employers' increasingly desire that employees should have the "right" appearance in that they "look good" and "sound right" in the service encounter in retail and hospitality. The evidence from the questionnaires suggests that employers in the retail and hospitality industries are not generally looking for "hard" technical skills in their front-line personnel, but rather "soft" skills. Such "soft" skills encompass attitude and, importantly, appearance - what we term "aesthetic skills" - and the latter is often underappreciated in academic and policy-making debates.