Customer perceptions of frontline employees' extra-role helping behaviors

Publication Type:
Journal Article
JOURNAL OF SERVICES MARKETING, 2020, ahead-of-print, (ahead-of-print)
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Purpose Frontline employees (FLEs) play a pivotal role in service delivery. Beyond their expected in-role behaviors, FLEs often have to perform extra-role behaviors such as providing additional help to customers. The purpose of this study is to investigate how customers’ power distance belief (PDB) influences their perceptions of FLEs’ warmth and competence when FLEs perform extra-role helping behaviors. Design/methodology/approach Four experiments were conducted to test the hypotheses. The first three experiments used a one factor two-level (PDB: low vs high) between-participants design. The fourth one used a 2 (PDB: low vs high) × 2 (firm reputation: low vs high) between-participants design. Findings The results indicate that, compared to high-PDB customers, low-PDB customers perceive greater warmth in FLEs’ extra-role helping behaviors but no significant difference in FLEs’ perceived competence. Importantly, these effects are mediated by customer gratitude. Moreover, these effects are moderated by firm reputation such that customers’ perceptions of FLEs’ warmth and competence are both enhanced when the firm has a favorable reputation. Originality/value To the best of the authors’ knowledge, the study is the first to identify the differential effects of PDB on customer perceptions of FLEs’ warmth and competence in the context of FLEs’ extra-role helping behaviors and to reveal the mediating role of gratitude. These findings contribute to the literatures on FLEs’ extra-role behaviors and social perceptions of both warmth and competence.
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