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The nature, impact and development of customer-oriented behaviour: A case study in an Icelandic service context.

Gronfeldt, Svafa (2000) The nature, impact and development of customer-oriented behaviour: A case study in an Icelandic service context. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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For the last few decades the importance of customer orientation for the success of service organisations has been emphasised in the academic and applied literatures. While the importance of the concept remains largely beyond dispute, scholars have suggested various definitions and applications of the concept to enhance service delivery. The purpose of this thesis is to examine an explicit behavioural perspective (COBEH) where the focus is not on an untangle service orientations of employees, but on the extent to which employees engage in direct behaviours specifically designed to benefit customers. This study was designed to examine empirically, for the first time, the nature, impact and development of the COBEH construct. First, the nature of COBEH was examined by a series of employee surveys from various service industries. The construct was examined in relation to the already established organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB) construct to determine if and to what extent the constructs are related and predictive of employee service-related behaviours. In this part of the study there were 2693 participants from seven Icelandic service organisations. Secondly, the impact of COBEH was examined by using employee and customer survey data from one of the seven participating service organisations (N=103). Employees' self-reported customer-oriented behaviour was compared with customer perceptions of the corresponding employee performance. Data on employee service performance was provided by two customer surveys including 900 customer responses in each survey. The employee and customer surveys provided a unique opportunity to match employee self-reports and customer perceptions. Thirdly, the development of COBEH was empirically tested by using both the employee and customer surveys where the antecedents of COBEH were examined (N=1190) and the impact of a customer service training programme on COBEH and the suggested antecedents were tested (N=71). Hence, this study addressed a gap in the literature between human resource practices and individual performance and establishes the COBEH construct as a valid and reliable predictor of customer perception of service outcomes. The results presented in this thesis show that the COBEH phenomenon is related to organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB) and that contrary to the OCB construct, it is predictive of customers' perceptions. COBEH is constructed of two related but separate sub-dimensions: helping behaviours directed at customers and continuous improvement efforts to enhance service delivery. The results suggest that the type of service may affect the construct's factor structure. The results confirm previous findings regarding the suggested antecedents of COBEH, but provide additional information regarding the differences in the underlying conditions for the two sub-dimensions. Both dimensions are impacted by motivational and capacity factors, but the two sub-dimensions are not a function of the exact same antecedents. A significant interaction was detected between employee willingness and capacity in regards to employee customer-oriented behaviours: as job capacity increases, the impact of employee willingness to engage in efforts on behalf of customers decreases. Organisations wanting to develop customer-oriented behaviours to enhance service delivery must take into consideration differences in the impact of the antecedents on the subdimensions and strategically use selection, socialisation, service training programmes and supportive managerial practices to create the conditions necessary for such behaviours to be cultivated and maintained. Furthermore, the results confirm the positive impact of customer-oriented behaviours on customer service perceptions, establishing the construct as a valid predictor of perceived service quality. It is believed that service delivery through full utilisation of human resources will become the major tool for competitive advances in the coming years. Thus, the importance of the COBEH construct will be enhanced in the new millennium as future examination and application of the construct will aid service organisations in their continuous search for a competitive advantage.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sociology, Organizational, Business Administration, Marketing
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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