This paper aims to investigate the influence of individual customer characteristics on frontline employees’ (FLEs) customer need knowledge (CNK), a construct that objectively measures FLEs’ ability to accurately identify a given customer’s hierarchy of needs.
The study uses hierarchical data involving the customer and bank advisor levels in the banking sector of three European countries. The matched sample consisted of 1,166 customers and 332 employees. To account for the nested structure of the data, the study used hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) using HLM software.
The results show that customers’ financial experience and risk aversion positively influence CNK and customer-perceived responsibility for the service outcome negatively impacts CNK. The results further show the impact of individual customer cultural values on CNK, which can be influenced by customer-oriented employee training. Cross-level interaction effects indicate that training measures can reverse negative influences of customers’ high power distance and uncertainty avoidance on CNK, whereas for customers characterized by high long-term orientations, training measures can backfire.
This study contributes to research on the antecedents of FLEs’ CNK by examining the currently overlooked influence of individual customer characteristics that are pertinent to the employee–customer interaction process. The study reveals customer characteristics as a new area of antecedents influencing FLEs’ accurate perceptions of customer needs.
Hüttel, B., Ates, Z., Schumann, J., Büttgen, M., Haager, S., Komor, M. and Volz, J. (2019), "The influence of customer characteristics on frontline employees’ customer need knowledge", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 33 No. 2, pp. 220-232. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSM-11-2017-0367Download as .RIS
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