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Maximizing Brand Equity via Ambidextrous Frontline Employees
Authors: Vida Siahtiri (Macquarie University), Aron O'Cass (Macquarie University, Australia)
Frontline employees (FLEs) face constant pressure to deliver high quality service and also sell additional services to customers. Pursuing cross and up selling opportunities and fulfilling customer service requests simultaneously offers potential benefits (and pitfalls) for service firms and customers. While it is argued that integrating selling activities into traditional service delivery increase firms revenues (Reider, 2008) and streamline interactions for customers (Rapp et al., 2017), it has pitfalls (downsides). The downsides for frontline service employees can be seen in difficulties in managing ambidextrous behavior and placing significant demands on managers and FLEs as customer service requests can create inefficiencies and increase costs (Lee et al., 2012). The downside for customer can be seen in possible negative impact on their perceptions of the encounter/experience depending on how service-sales are delivered. Customers negative behavioral and psychological consequences can lower satisfaction/increase dissatisfaction, weaken final sales (see Schmitz and Ganesan, 2014), and damage brand.
With growing pressure on frontline stakeholders (FLEs-managers-customers) and inconsistency about positives and pitfalls from service-sales greater attention is needed to unpack a range of issues that these practices are raising. Adopting job demand resource (JD-R) theory, we unpack the role of contextual resources and FLEs’ personal resources in helping FLEs’ to undertake both service and selling and how this effects service brand equity. To test our theory, we use triadic data obtained from service firms’ branch managers, FLEs, and active customers, this research makes three specific contributions. First, we unpack the interactive effects of contextual resources including, transactional leadership, initiative climate, market knowledge sharing, customers’ participation and FLEs’ personal resources in the form self-regulatory mode orientations to model FLE service-sales behavior. Second, while studies focusing on ambidexterity have examined antecedents and consequences from a single level perspective, we offer a comprehensive explanation of the mechanisms behind resource deployment and demand control/management at branch level and FLE level to engage in service-sales ambidexterity. Third, research investigating the effects of ambidextrous behavior on organizational units, organizational performance and the customer is limited (Yu et al., 2012). FLEs behaviors play an important role in service brand success (Morhart et al., 2009), therefore we investigate the relative contribution of FLEs service-sales–ambidexterity to service brand equity. The results demonstrate that contextual resources positively influence an FLE’s assessment orientation, which subsequently interacts positively with their locomotion orientation to facilitate ambidextrous behavior, thereby impacting service brand equity. The study offers new theoretical and managerial insights into managing frontline contextual resources and the effects of ambidextrous behaviors at both the branch and FLE level.