October 14, 2015

Rice U. study: Customer feedback helps spur employee creativity

Credit: thinkstockphotos.com/Rice University

(October 14, 2015)  Empowering customers to give feedback to service providers can have a key motivational impact on employees’ creativity and customer satisfaction, two important service outcomes, according to a new study by management experts at Rice University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Maryland, the University of Minnesota and National Taiwan University.

“The findings suggest that service creativity is a powerful avenue through which customer satisfaction can be achieved,” said study co-author Jing Zhou, the Houston Endowment Professor of Management at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business. “Service creativity allows employees to delight customers in unusual ways or solve problems that existing protocol falls short of addressing.”

The research, which will be published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, was based on a multilevel analysis of multisource survey data from 380 hairstylists matched with 3,550 customers in 118 hair salons belonging to a large salon chain in Taiwan. Although the study was conducted in the beauty service industry, the theoretical framework the authors developed addresses fundamental psychological processes that are universal for individual employees, authors said.

The study’s findings demonstrate that customers might present a unique opportunity for service organizations to manage encounters between customers and employees, Zhou said. “Our results suggest that organizations can benefit from strategically marketing to customers in order to cue them toward empowering their service provider. For example, managers should look for chances to foster customers’ willingness to empower employees by helping customers establish confidence in the employees and focusing on the prospect of superior performance.”

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