Handbook of Service Marketing Research
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Handbook of Service Marketing Research

Edited by Roland T. Rust and Ming-Hui Huang

The Handbook of Service Marketing Research brings together an all-star team of leading researchers in service marketing to explore many of the hottest topics in service marketing today.
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Chapter 12: Frontline employees and performance: optimizing the frontline, maximizing the bottom line

Sandra Streukens and Tor W. Andreassen


Starbucks and Nordstrom, a U.S. coffee chain and department store chain respectively, share a passion for service. While their service is complex in nature (that is, creating a positive customer experience), it can be decomposed into three parts. They offer a tangible component (for example, coffee and shoes) in a store, through the assistance of frontline employees who possess hard skills (that is, how to perform their job), and soft skills (that is, manage the human interaction in the moment of truth). While the tangible and store component separately and in combination are important, frontline employees' (FLE) performance in the moment of truth is critical to the customer experience and ultimately to sales performance. In fact, Starbucks reflect their appreciation of their FLEs in the often-cited slogan: "We are known for our coffee but our employees make us famous!" But what is the link between FLE behavior and sales performance and, related to this, how do you optimize FLE behavior in a way that maximizes profitability without losing focus on what actually drives FLE behavior? In relation to the link between FLE behavior and (objective) sales performance, service researchers typically develop and test regression-based models that link data from employees to internal company data. Examples of these employee-revenue chains include the work of de Jong et al. (2004), Kamakura et al. (2002), and Loveman (1998).

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