Photos :Stemming the tide
Article reviewed was referenced from Wang, S & Davis, L, 2008,” Stemming the tide: dealing with the imbalance of customer relationship quality with the key contact employee versus with the firm”, Journal of Services Marketing, issue 22/7, pp. 533 – 549, Emerald.
The research examined the potential harm caused by the termination of an imbalanced customer-employee relationship, where customer-firm relationships are stronger than customer-employee relationship.
The research studies the issue of imbalanced customer-employee relationship with research focus on the causes of its origin. Hypotheses include:
H1: Employees with high levels of empowerment are more likely to create relationship quality (RQ) imbalance compared to those with low levels of empowerment.
H2: Customers under single-facet interactions are more likely to develop an imbalance of customer RQ in favour of a key contact employee compared to those under multi-facet interactions.
H3: Employees engaged in more extra-role performance toward the customer are more likely to cause imbalance of customer RQ in favour of the key contact employee compared to those engaged in less extra-role performance.
H4: Employees with short job tenure are more likely to cause RQ imbalance compared to those with long job tenure.
H5: Compared with men, women customers are more likely to develop imbalance of customer RQ in favour of the key contact employee.
H6: Customers with higher trust propensity are less likely to develop an imbalance of customer RQ in favour of the key contact employee.
H7: Customers with RQ imbalance are more likely to perceive more loss of relational benefits when the key contact employee stops serving the customer.
H8: Customers with RQ imbalance are more likely to re-evaluate business relationship with the service organization when the key contact employee stops serving the customer.
H9: Customers with RQ imbalance are more likely to experience discomfort when the key contact employee stops serving the customer.
The authors consider the research problem was worthy of investigation because little is known about customers’ cognitive and emotional reactions when the relationship with his/her favourite employee terminates. Understanding such reactions could enable service organizations to take precautious actions to prevent switching events and to provide better customer care when facing the termination of an imbalanced customer relationship.
The research method involved several round of interviews. Primary data were collected from 67 firms with 279 employees participating. 1100 customers were approached with 780 completing the customer paper-and-pencil survey. The 780 customer responses were matched with the employee responses and data yielded were analysed from these 780 pairs. The research method of interviews of both customers and their favourite employee provides a direct link to the problem that the authors are addressing. The sample is sizeable to infer the findings correctly. It is an effective method as in face-to-face interviews there is no significant time delay between question and answer; the interviewer and interviewee can directly react on what the other says or does. An advantage of this communication is that the answer of the interviewee is more spontaneous, without an extended reflection (Opdenakker 2006).
Findings found that:
- customers may perceive that they are losing the relational benefits that they have developed through key contact employee when the employee is no longer available;
- customers will experience discomfort when the key contact employee becomes unavailable;
- when RQ imbalance exists customers are more likely to re-evaluate their business relationship with the service firms when the key contact employee becomes unavailable;
- empowering employees in the service process might lead to RQ imbalance that favours the employee;
- developing multi-facet interaction between customer and organization will significantly reduce the customer RQ in favour of the employee;
- employee’s tenure with the company has a significant impact on the likelihood of relationship imbalance;
- the longer the employee works for the company, the less likely the imbalance of customer RQ in favour of the employee;
- when employees go above and beyond the call of duty to secure customer satisfaction, the likelihood of customer RQ imbalance increases;
- women are more likely to develop imbalance of RQ that favours the employee; and
- finally, that customers with a low propensity to trust are more likely to develop relationship imbalances that favour the employee.
Service organization must identify causes of such RQ imbalance and find ways to prevent such occurrences.
Policies concerning employee empowerment should be developed in such a way that employee commitment and customer satisfaction are maintained without harming the customer organization relationship.
The more points of interaction that are included in the service experience, the lower the possibility of RQ imbalance that favours the employee, thus, in designing the service delivery, services marketing organizations may want to expand the points of contact.
The findings on employee tenure suggest that companies may be able to gain a competitive advantage by focusing on retaining employees.
The findings also suggest that service organizations should provide and advertise assurances with respect to the quality of the service.