Frontline employees’ innovative service behavior as key to customer loyalty: insights into FLEs’ resource gain spiral

Ruth Maria Stock, Ad de Jong, Nicolas A. Zacharias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many service firms require frontline service employees (FLEs) to follow routines and standardized operating procedures during the service encounter, to deliver consistently high service standards. However, to create superior, pleasurable experiences for customers, featuring both helpful services and novel approaches to meeting their needs, firms in various sectors also have begun to encourage FLEs to engage in more innovative service behaviors. This study therefore investigates a new and complementary route to customer loyalty, beyond the conventional service-profit chain, that moves through FLEs' innovative service behavior. Drawing on conservation of resources (COR) theory, this study introduces a resource gain spiral at the service encounter, which runs from FLEs' emotional job engagement to innovative service behavior, and then leads to customer delight and finally customer loyalty. In accordance with COR theory, the proposed model also includes factors that might hinder (customer aggression, underemployment) or foster (colleague support, supervisor support) FLEs' resource gain spiral. A multilevel analysis of a large-scale, dyadic data set that contains responses from both FLEs and customers in multiple industries strongly supports the proposed resource gain spiral as a complementary route to customer loyalty. The positive emotional job engagement-innovative service behavior relationship is undermined by customer aggression and underemployment, as hypothesized. Surprisingly though, and contrary to the hypotheses, colleague and supervisor support do not seem to foster FLEs' resource gain spiral. Instead, colleague support weakens the engagement-innovative service behavior relationship, and supervisor support does not affect it. These results indicate that if FLEs can solicit resources from other sources, they may not need to invest as many of their individual resources. In particular, colleague support even appears to serve as a substitute for FLEs' individual resource investments in the resource gain spiral.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-245
JournalJournal of Product Innovation management
Issue number2
Early online date23 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2016 The Authors Journal of Product Innovation Management by Wiley Periodicals, Inc on behalf of Product Development & Management Association
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.


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