Frontiers in Service Conference edition:24 location:San José, California date:9-12 July 2015
Given the importance of employees in customer complaint handling, academics as well as managers have long been interested in enhancing employees’ service recovery performance. Previous research identified various drivers of service recovery performance, with frontline employees’ customer orientation being one of the strongest antecedents.
This study extends prior research on frontline employees’ service recovery performance by examining the role of two other personal characteristics: Customer stewardship and political skill. Customer stewardship is the degree to which a service provider is genuinely concerned about customers’ welfare, and is considered a more encompassing construct than customer orientation. Customer stewardship may therefore be a valuable personal resource to predict service recovery performance. Political skill is the degree to which a person can exert interpersonal influence, appears as sincere, has social astuteness and knows how to network. Management literature indicates that having political skills is particularly valuable in stressful environments. Given that dealing with complaining customers is demanding, possessing political skill might be beneficial to service employees during service recovery. The aim of this study is to test and contrast the effects of both personal resources on service recovery performance.
The results of an initial survey among 311 call center employees show that political skill is a stronger predictor of frontline employees’ service recovery performance than customer stewardship. From a theoretical perspective, these results contribute to the literature by showing that fostering customer stewardship, considered as an even more encompassing construct than customer orientation, is not enough: Frontline employees benefit from possessing political skill. This study therefore provides additional insights into the role of personal resources in predicting service recovery performance, which is considered an understudied topic to date. On the practical level, service providers can use these results in two ways: First, political skill seems to be a better selection criterion when hiring new frontline employees than customer orientation or customer stewardship. Second, the current frontline employees’ political skill might be improved through training and other initiatives.