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Does standardized service fit all? Novel service encounter in frontline employee-customer interface

John Lai (Department of Management, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China)
Steven S. Lui (School of Management, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)
Alice H.Y. Hon (School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 4 November 2014

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2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the nature of the novel service encounter with reference to three research questions: first, what kind of creative acts do frontline employees undertake during a novel service encounter? Second, how does the novel service encounter correlate with service innovation? Third, how does it vary in different market environments? The novel service encounter refers to creative acts undertaken by frontline staff working at the employee-customer interface. These acts are important sources of new ideas for service innovation and demand systematic study.

Design/methodology/approach

Methods in this study are triangulated by combining interviews, field observations and a survey to develop an observation template for examining the creative acts undertaken by frontline employees during service encounters in an international tourist apparel retailer.

Findings

This paper provides initial empirical evidence of the process of the novel service encounter and highlights the use of participant observation as a useful methodology.

Originality/value

This paper contributes to the service innovation literature by examining the novel service encounter using an observation template that takes into account its process-driven nature. It is suggested that improvisation by frontline employees during the service encounter is crucial to innovation, and a standardized service does not fit every situation.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This work was partially supported by the Australian Research Council Discovery Grant (DP110100880) awarded to Steven Lui.

Citation

Lai, J., S. Lui, S. and H.Y. Hon, A. (2014), "Does standardized service fit all? Novel service encounter in frontline employee-customer interface", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 26 No. 8, pp. 1341-1363. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCHM-08-2013-0338

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited