Customer service understanding: gender differences of frontline employees

Christine Mathies (School of Marketing, Australian School of Business, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)
Marion Burford (School of Marketing, Australian School of Business, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)

Managing Service Quality: An International Journal

ISSN: 0960-4529

Publication date: 15 November 2011



Despite widespread acknowledgement of the importance of employees to the success of service firms, research into how well frontline service staff understand service remains scarce. This study aims to investigate what constitutes good customer service from the viewpoint of frontline service employees and to explore gender differences in particular.


The data were collected from 876 frontline employees across a wide range of service industries. An automated text analysis using Leximancer explored general and gender‐specific patterns in employees' customer service understanding.


Irrespective of gender, frontline service staff share the perception that the pillars of good customer service are listening skills, making the customer happy, and offering service. Males have a more functional, outcome‐oriented interpretation of customer service; females focus more on the actual service interaction and emotional outcomes.

Practical implications

By acknowledging gender‐based dissimilarities in the customer service understanding of frontline service employees, the efficiency of recruitment and training processes will be enhanced.


This study contributes to limited work on service models of frontline staff and shows that gender can explain some differences. This study also adds another dimension to the understanding of gender effects in services, beyond its influence on customers' quality perceptions and behaviours. The results are important for services marketing research and for managers in charge of recruiting and training frontline service staff.



Mathies, C. and Burford, M. (2011), "Customer service understanding: gender differences of frontline employees", Managing Service Quality: An International Journal, Vol. 21 No. 6, pp. 636-648.

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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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