The effect of customer-initiated support on employee service performance: the self-verification theory perspective

ZHANG Hui1 LIU Yanjun2 SHI Yanwei3 ZHANG Nan4

(1.School of Sociology, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430074)
(2.School of Economics and Management, North China University of Technology, Beijing 100144)
(3.College of Philosophy, Law & Political Science, Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai 200234)
(4.School of Psychology, Central China Normal University, Wuhan 430079)

【Abstract】With the service industry growing rapidly to contribute to about 60% of the world’s GDP, improving customer service quality with high service performance (in-role performance and proactive customer service performance) is critical for service organizational development. Previous research has linked employee service performance with a variety of potential antecedents, such as individual difference factors and organizational factors from resource, identification, and motivation perspectives. Surprisingly, we know little about how customer positive behaviors (e.g., customer-initiated support) might affect employees’ service performance. This is a critical gap to fill because customers have substantial power and impact on front-line service employees through frequent direct interactions with them during service delivery. Drawing on the self-verification theory, the present study aimed to examine the effect of customer-initiated support on employee service performance (in-role performance and proactive customer service performance) and explore the mediating role of organization-based self-esteem and the moderating roles of promotion focus and internal locus of control. We collected three-wave time-lagged data from 652 nurses nested within 139 department supervisors. In the first-wave survey (T1), employees reported perceived customer-initiated support, their promotion focus, internal locus of control, proactive personality, and demographic variables. In the second-wave survey (T2), employees who had completed first wave questionnaires were asked to rate their organizational-based self-esteem. In the third wave survey (T3), employees’ supervisors were asked to report the employees’ service performance, including in-role performance and proactive customer service performance. Results from multilevel modeling analysis showed that (1) customer-initiated support was positively related to employee organization-based self-esteem; (2) organization-based self-esteem was positively related to employee in-role performance and proactive customer service performance; (3) employee organization-based self-esteem mediated the relation between customer-initiated support and employee in-role performance and proactive customer service performance; (4) promotion focus strengthened the positive relationship between customer-initiated support and organization-based self-esteem, such that the positive relationship between customer-initiated support and organization-based self-esteem is stronger for employees with higher promotion focus; (5) internal locus of control weakened the relationship between customer-initiated support and organization-based self-esteem, such that the positive relationship between customer-initiated support and organization-based self-esteem is weaker for employees with higher internal locus of control. Our findings contribute to literature in several ways. First, we contribute to the service performance literature by identifying customer-initiated support as a potential antecedent. Second, this study uncovers the potential mechanism of customer-initiated support’s impact on employee service performance from the self-verification perspective, which broadens previous research from resources, identification, and motivation perspectives. Third, this study confirms the moderating roles of promotion focus and internal locus of control, which contributes to the understanding of under what conditions the effect of customer-initiated support will be stronger.

【Keywords】 customer-initiated support; service performance; self-verification theory; organizational-based self-esteem; promotion focus; internal locus of control;

【DOI】

【Funds】 National Natural Science Foundation of China (71901098, 72101005) National Natural Science Foundation of China (72132001) the Independent Innovation Fund of Huazhong University of science and Technology (2020WKYXQN011)

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This Article

ISSN:0439-755X

CN:11-1911/B

Vol , No. 04, Pages 398-410

February 2022

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Article Outline

Abstract

  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Method
  • 3 Results
  • 4 Discussion
  • 5 Conclusion
  • References