How Do Different Service Employees Deliver the Brand to Consumers? An Abstract
An important aspect of service employees’ performance is related to their ability to demonstrate brand-congruent behaviour, given that customers’ brand experience is a function of their encounter with them (Akdeniz & Calantone, 2015). An extensive amount of work in the area examines how frontline employees affect customers’ experience with the brand (Xie et al., 2014), and scholars examine a variety of organizational, interpersonal and intrapersonal factors which affect employees’ ability to deliver the brand consistently (e.g. Dean et al., 2016). Much of the published work espousing the importance of employees assumes that employees share a common understanding of their role, despite evidence showing that individuals may frame their work quite differently and have different motives when it comes to fulfilling various work-related objectives. Second, current internal branding conceptualizations view employees as a homogenous group of stakeholders who respond to the firm’s internal branding efforts in an unvarying way (Punjaisri et al., 2009). These assumptions are inaccurate, as interpersonal variations among individuals need to be taken into account when examining each employee’s ability to meet existing brand delivery standards when interacting with customers (Di Mascio, 2010). Without accommodating these intrapersonal variations into existing internal branding frameworks, managerial insights cannot be uniformly applied to entire service staff.
This study departs from investigating traditional service employee management models which implicitly assume that all employees share homogeneous brand perceptions and introduces an individual-level perspective in the internal branding literature. This perspective is unique in that it accounts for intrapersonal variations among frontline employees and illustrates how different types of employee respond to the firm’s human resource management practices and how they deliver the brand to consumers. This study extends the service employee and the internal branding literature in introducing an individual-level perspective which takes into account intrapersonal variations of frontline employees when delivering the brand to consumers. Drawing from schema theory (Daft & Weick, 1984) and action identification theory (Vallacher & Wegner, 1987), a typology of service employees is introduced by exploring how each of these types perceives the firm’s brand and how they understand their role in the brand delivery process. Building on these findings, this study empirically confirms that the role of various human resource management practices (i.e. training, coaching) is not equally effective for all types of employees and also that employees’ responses to the firm’s efforts (i.e. brand mindfulness, brand attachment) vary significantly depending on their perceptions of the firm’s brand. Results also indicate that different employee types’ responses affect their extra-role brand-related behaviour (as captured by brand development and brand resilience) in different ways.