Embarrassment during Retail Encounters: Contribution to the Theory of Rapport

Proceedings of ‏The 10th International Conference on Modern Research in Management, Economics and Accounting

Year: 2020

DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.33422/10th.mea.2020.03.61

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Embarrassment during Retail Encounters: Contribution to the Theory of Rapport

Iracema Medeiros d´Abreu, Irene Raguenet Troccoli, João Felipe Sauerbronn and Paulo Roberto da Costa Vieira



In retail settings, rapport is the perception of customers that their interaction with frontline employees (FLEs) is pleasant, building a personal connection between both parties. During retail encounters, it is possible for embarrassment to arise, which normally can be identified by nonverbal interpersonal communication, consisting of physical evidence like eye movements, posture and blushing. Embarrassment can have negative effects on the behaviors of customers, so it is good marketing policy to make all efforts to alleviate this feeling. In particular, pharmacies and drugstores are propitious for embarrassing situations and, for this reason, the study of embarrassment is particularly interesting in the case of FLEs who work at these premises. This qualitative study at drugstores in a Brazilian city examines how nonverbal interpersonal communication practiced by FLEs can create rapport during encounters with embarrassed retail consumers. Results show six ways by which this can happen, evidencing complex behavioral patterns among FLEs, although without emphasis on a specific communication style. Despite showing verbal and nonverbal elements, the two were not always associated in FLEs´ behavior, indicating that rapport can be used to reduce embarrassment. Contribution to the theory of rapport comes from challenging the preconception that its identified categories are mutually exclusive and comprehensive.

Keywords:embarrassment; rapport; retail encounters; nonverbal interpersonal communication; critical incident technique.