Personality Traits as Antecedents of Employee Customer Orientation: A Case Study in the Hospitality Industry

By Liu, Chu-Mei; Chen, Kuang-Jung | International Journal of Management, September 2006 | Go to article overview
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Personality Traits as Antecedents of Employee Customer Orientation: A Case Study in the Hospitality Industry

Liu, Chu-Mei, Chen, Kuang-Jung, International Journal of Management

Previous studies suggested connections between profits of organizations and their employees' market orientation, especially among service-oriented outfits. Key to their success is the performance of their frontliners. The previous studies have shown to imply that personality traits and situations interact with dispositions influence behavior and performance. This study investigated the possible links between market orientation and personality traits of the hospitality industry frontline employees consisted of 374 frontline employees and supervisors, the latter conceptualized as antecedents. Results shows that while the links exist, this significant association is only between market orientation and four dimensions out of the five dimensions of personality traits used: conscientiousness, stability, agreeability, and activity.


Within service organizations, frontline employees and supervisors are regarded as the show windows of the company's customer orientation. They are the direct participants in the implementation of this marketing concept, because the 'personal component of services is often the primary determinant of customer overall satisfaction" (Rust, Zahorik, and Keiningham, 1996: 391). Desphande, Parley, and Webster (1993) amplified the importance of satisfying customer needs. Narver and Slater (1990) found this market orientation to be positively related to the firm's profitability; while Jaworski and Kohli (1993) found it to be related to commitment and esprit de corps. These study results highlight the importance of understanding employees. The area of customer orientation of service employees remain under-investigated (Brown, Mowen, Donovan and Licata, 2002), particularly its antecedents.

Customer Orientation

Customer orientation is an individual based construct. Despite its marketing importance, limited research has been conducted on the construct. The literature indicates that the first attempt to measure directly customer orientation was undertaken by Saxe and Weitz (1982). They sought to measure on a long-term basis, customer satisfaction using a 24-item scale with two dimensions - customer orientation and selling orientation. Michaels and Day (1985) and Tradepalli (1995) have undertaken what can be described as follow-up studies. However, all the three studies failed to touch on the determinants of customer orientation.

Customer orientation is the employee's tendency or predesposition to meet customer needs in a competitive market situation, divided into two dimensions: needs dimension and enjoyment dimension (Brown, et. al., 2002). According to Brown and Company, the needs dimension represents employees' beliefs about their ability to satisfy customer needs. The enjoyment dimension, on the other hand, represents the degree to which interacting with and serving customers does add to the employee's services rendered.

Personality Traits as Predictors of Human Behavior

Researchers have long studied the role of personality traits as predictors of human behavior (Wiggins, 1996). Several anchored their work in the five basic dimensions of personality (Goldberg, 1992; Saucier, 1994). The dimensions are (1) extraversion, or introversion - the degree to which a person is outgoing or shy, (2) (in)stability - captures the evenness or steadiness of an person's general emotional make-up, (3) agreeability - general warmth of feelings toward others, (4) consciousness - degree of orderliness, organization, and precision, and (5) openness to experience (or creativity) - person's degree of imagination or originality (Brown, et. al., 2002).

Previous studies have focused their investigations on the five-dimensions and managerial ratings of job performance. The traits, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and agreeability (Frei and McDaniel, 1998) as well as extroversion (Hogan, Hogan, and Busch, 1984; Hurley, 1998) have been found to be predictive of service worker performance ratings.

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Personality Traits as Antecedents of Employee Customer Orientation: A Case Study in the Hospitality Industry


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