Customer orientation of service
Its impact on customer satisfaction,
commitment, and retention
Department of Media, Bauhaus-University of Weimar, Weimar, Germany
Keywords Employees, Service industries, Customer orientation, Customer retention,
Abstract With the performance of service personnel often constituting a major element of a
service per se, the customer orientation of service personnel is often regarded as a main
determinant of service ﬁrms’ success. Drawing on a deductively derived four-dimensional
conceptualization of the customer orientation of service personnel, consisting of employees’
technical skills, social skills, motivation, and decision-making power, a model of the impact
employees’ customer orientation has on key service marketing constructs is theoretically developed.
The model is then empirically tested against a sample of 989 consumers for two service contexts
(i.e. book/CD/DVD retailers and travel agencies), with the results providing support for most
hypotheses. Implications of the ﬁndings for services and retail management are discussed.
Service success through customer-oriented employees?
As a result of the intangible and interactive nature of services, customers often rely on
the behavior of service employees when judging the quality of a service. Consequently,
the employees’ level of customer orientation is considered an important leverage for
service ﬁrms’ economic success (Bitner et al., 1990; Bove and Johnson, 2000; Bowen and
Schneider, 1985; Sergeant and Frenkel, 2000). Despite its important position in the
value chain, only few studies have addressed the construct of customer orientation of
service employees (COSE) and its impact on service ﬁrms’ success (Brown et al., 2002).
Noteworthy exceptions are the studies by Kelley (1992), Brown et al. (2002), Donavan
et al. (2004), and Hennig-Thurau and Thurau (2003). While the ﬁrst two studies focus
on the relationship between COSE and employee characteristics such as personality
traits, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment, the latter authors have
suggested, but not empirically tested, a three-dimensional conceptualization of
customer orientation of service employees, distinguishing between the employee’s
motivation to serve customers, his or her customer-oriented skills, and his or her
self-perceived decision-making authority. To the best of our knowledge, no study has
yet tested the impact of COSE on the way customers assess transactions with service
employees or their relationship with the service provider as a whole.
This paper draws on the conceptualization suggested by Hennig-Thurau and
Thurau (2003) and tests a model of COSE dimensions and customer-sided
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The author is grateful to Daniel Bornemann at the University of Hannover for his support during
the data collection part of this project. The author also thanks 100 students at the University of
Muenster and the University of Hannover for their collaboration and Paul Marx for
programming the survey.
International Journal of Service
Vol. 15 No. 5, 2004
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited