Show your teeth and tilt your head! Customer preferences towards a service with a smile


  • Chung-En Yu Department of Innovation and Management in Tourism, Salzburg University of Applied Sciences, Urstein Süd 1, A-5412 Puch/Salzburg, Austria. Email:


emotional labour; service encounter; smile; collectivism; individualism


The notion of service with a smile is a commonplace one in the realm of customer service. However, there are cultural variations when it comes to the perception and display of a smile as customers interpret smiles differently, depending on their background, gender and/or ethnicity. This research paper aims to analyze in greater depth, the distinct characteristics and nuances behind the smiles of presenters (i.e., service agents) and to investigate the interpreters’ (i.e., customers) perceptions. The findings revealed that non-Asians, normally regarded as more individualistic, tend to display a wider spectrum of different facial expressions, compared to Asians. The association between an Asian cultural identity and collectivism might partly account for this difference. In addition, it was discovered that customers are more likely to be attracted by service representatives of a different ethnicity during a service encounter, with gender playing a negligible role. On the whole, this paper will present significant contributions to the tourism and hospitality industries, by providing guidelines and insights for managers, hotel operators, and human resource departments, to improve and refine employee training.




How to Cite

Yu, C.-E. (2019). Show your teeth and tilt your head! Customer preferences towards a service with a smile. European Journal of Tourism Research, 22, 31–44. Retrieved from