Embodied Customer Experience in Human Touch Services: A phenomenological perspective

Tutkimustuotos: VäitöskirjaCollection of Articles


Life happens through our body and mind, and the two are closely intertwined as we form meanings and experiences. An active and sensing human body is present when we participate in a yoga class, shop for clothing, spend an evening in a restaurant, or make decisions in banking negotiations. This is the world in which we all live and create our experiences. However, despite the essential role of the body in our doings, the human body is conspicuous in its absence in daily conversations in companies’ agendas, as well as in customer experience (CX) studies in service research. Existing studies examine CX mainly through cognitive perceptions, while the role of the body is largely taken for granted. There is an evident need for an alternative perspective that expands on this restricted view.

The purpose of this study is to create an understanding of CX as embodied in human touch service contexts. To achieve this purpose, two research questions are set: 1) How the embodied CX is formed? 2) What kind of a role the body plays in CX in human touch services? To answer these questions, this dissertation comprises four articles with this introduction. The articles explore the central role of the body in experiences from multiple viewpoints. Article I maps the role of emotions in CX and acknowledges how they are embedded in these experiences. Article II creates a new understanding of interaction as a bodily and multilevel phenomenon in the group fitness context. Article III focuses on service encounters as bodily practices. Article IV examines how customer experience emerges in the customer’s subjective life-world, illustrating how the life-world is shaped and defined through the body.

This research applies a phenomenological perspective, which enables the study of customer experience from a first-person view and helps us understand experience as a bodily phenomenon. The aim of the research guides the methodology of the articles in the dissertation, which include phenomenological interviews, focus group interviews, autoethnography, and observation. This study critically evaluates the prevailing assumptions of CX in service research, in which the active role of the body has not been examined. The concept of embodiment is introduced by drawing on research streams in which the central role of the body in experience has been identified. A multidisciplinary perspective based on sociology, consumption research, and organizational and management studies enriches the discussion of CX.

This dissertation challenges the assumptions of the traditional, mechanical conceptions of research on CX that have not taken into account the central role of the body in the formation of experience. It offers an alternative view for understanding how customer experience emerges and how it should be managed. The findings build detailed understanding on how embodied CXs are formed through complex combination of bodily linkages and creative acts. The body’s role in CX in human touch services is identified as active and holistic: the body is the locus of dimensions of experience, as well as a connection point of previous and becoming, private and social, knowledge and intuition, enabling CX formation. The theoretical contributions of this study are highlighted through four key propositions. The methods and research designs suitable for studying embodiment are discussed.

The key managerial contributions are presented in a model that provides guidelines for service companies on how to harness an embodied approach as a driver of a successful business. The guidelines consist of four components for business managers to recreate their business understanding: takeover of the embodied approach, recreation of business practices, reconsideration of the customer, and reorientation of the service encounter. Altogether, the findings help business managers understand how the active and sensing body is at the center of a successful service business.
ISBN (elektroninen) 978-952-03-2563-3
TilaJulkaistu - 2022
OKM-julkaisutyyppiG5 Artikkeliväitöskirja


NimiTampere University Dissertations - Tampereen yliopiston väitöskirjat
ISSN (painettu)2489-9860
ISSN (elektroninen)2490-0028


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