How can service organizations improve the customer orientation of frontline employees? : a cross cultural study
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- Master Thesis 
Frontline employees, the employees with customer contact, are the face of service organizations and play a critical role in determining customer satisfaction. Service quality is greatly improved when these employees are customer oriented. Customer orientation refers to an individual’s commitment to delivering great customer service. While some research exists, the antecedents to customer orientation are insufficiently studied. Answering a call for new insights into this important topic, this master thesis explores how service organizations can improve the customer orientation of frontline employees. We collected surveys from 645 frontline employees in a large, international telecommunication company. Since these employees represent two subsidiaries in Scandinavia and one in South Asia, we are able to investigate the generalizability of our findings across cultures. We find that a key to developing customer orientation is a strong team service climate, where team members support each other and encourage good customer service. Another important antecedent is self-efficacy; frontline employees who are confident in their abilities to serve customers are more customer oriented. Contrary to our expectations, customer oriented supervisors have no direct effect on their subordinates. These three findings are consistent across cultures, while other effects vary. In Scandinavia, the impact of having a strong team service climate is even greater when their supervisor is customer oriented, highlighting the importance of developing a service culture. Also, empowerment is only positively related to customer orientation in South Asia. Since South Asian frontline employees in our sample feel less empowered than their Scandinavian peers, there may be potential in granting them greater flexibility to handle customer requests. Further, organizational identification has a positive effect in Scandinavia, implying a caution against outsourcing customer care departments. These, and other findings, are discussed. We also provide managerial implications, suggesting how mangers can increase the customer orientation of their frontline employees.