Bank employees apparently know when their customers are satisfied or dissatisfied with the level of customer service provided by their bank. Both Schneider, Parkington, and Buxton (1980) and Schneider and Bowen (1985) demonstrated that branch customer attitudes about service quality were significantly correlated with employee views of customer service.
At the same time, customer service is not a unitary concept, as there are several dimensions of service quality. For example, Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry (1985) identified 10 service quality elements, many of which are relevant for the contact between customers and employees.
While service organizations have been neglected relative to manufacturing firms (Bowen and Schneider, 1988), it is now recognized that to close this gap it is necessary to attend to both customer and employee constituencies (Schneider and Bowen, 1985; Tornow, 1991) in service organizations. This theme has been emphasized by Ulrich, Halbrook, Meder, Stuchlik, and Thorpe (1991) in their rationale for connecting employee and customer attachment. Their three-pronged approach emphasizes a competitive, psychological, and human resource (HR) rationale for employee and customer attachment in which "human resource practices become levers for increasing shared mind-set both inside and outside the company" (Ulrich et al., 1991, page 91). As such, these practices become broadly cultural, a necessary condition for sustained service quality (Berry, Zeithaml, and Parasuraman, 1985).
An Atlantic Coast bank with 79 branches in one of its Retail Divisions examined both customer perceptions of branch service and employee attitudes toward the bank, including employee views of customer service. This provided a unique opportunity to examine further the link between employee and customer perceptions of customer service. In this report we present the highlights of this analysis, thereby extending the earlier research of Schneider et al. (1980); and Schneider and Bowen (1985), under completely independent conditions. In addition, comparisons are made with Parasuraman et al. (1985), providing information regarding employees' perceptions of a variety of service quality dimensions, as well as broadly cultural factors that shape customer service practices within organizations.
The subjects consisted of 322 tellers and 145 customer service representatives from 79 branches of an Atlantic Coast, full-service, commercial bank. These people had individually completed employee surveys in a group situation as part of a larger effort to evaluate employee attitudes and cultural perceptions. A total of 589 nonexempt and 153 officials and managers participated in the broader survey, a total which was approximately 98 percent of their work force.
Survey procedures emphasized assurances of anonymity and confidentiality, including limiting survey organization and analysis to relatively large groups, e.g., 20 employees, where it is impossible for management to identify (or conjecture) who made a particular response. In order to have sufficiently large groups to preserve confidentiality, branch survey data was identified and organized by district and area for nonexempt tellers and customer service representatives. Thus, at the time of survey administration, employees coded their responses to reflect their area rather than their branch. In this regard, there were 6 districts and 16 areas; however, two small areas from the same district, each with several very small branches and a small work force, were combined. Similarly, because there are fewer customer service representatives than tellers in the typical branch, we combined some areas, again from the same district, for the customer service representatives analysis.
In addition, 4065 customers participated in a separate study using an intercept method at each branch in which customers completed a market research …