Purpose: This study aims to descriptively identify and refine the role of emotional intelligence (EI) in the retail banking employee–customer contact context, and prescriptively use this knowledge to develop a framework for improving true customer service without excess organizational cost, in Lebanon. Design/methodology/approach: The research adopts the classical interpretive/constructivist ontology and the interpretivism/constructivism epistemology, and it rests on a tripod of methodological foundations. The first leg is the theoretical work that sets the extant scientific ground for the empirical work to develop. The second incorporates the main (qualitative) empirical tools, i.e. 40 interviews with customers and HR managers (NVivo-analyzed), plus a critical incident technique study. The third includes the supportive tools of secondary data and an expert panel composed of industry and scholarly specialists. Findings: EI was empirically shown to modulate the levels of customer satisfaction and to hold a critical role in the company–customer interface, albeit one that is currently and unjustly both undervalued and ineffectively controlled. The findings identify the key factors and exhibited behavioral attributes of EI within the customer service process, and they integrate all into a comprehensive framework of both scholarly and executive worth. Originality/value: This study provides distinct theoretical elucidations and conceptualization that have identified and interrelated the relevant works on the subject; empirically refines the variables involved in the EI context of retail banking customer service; and culminates in the form of the proposed framework that incorporates and interrelates the findings into an empirical-data-based composition of both scholarly and executive orientation and worth.
- Customer service
- Emotional intelligence
- Exhibited behavioral attributes
- Retail banking
- Service encounters