Employee customer orientation in manufacturing organizations: joint influences of customer proximity and the senior leadership team.J Appl Psychol. 2008 Mar; 93(2):317-28.JA
Pursuing a customer-focused strategy in manufacturing organizations requires employees across functions to embrace the importance of understanding customer needs and to align their everyday efforts with the goal of satisfying and retaining customers. Little prior research has examined what factors influence employee customer orientation in manufacturing settings. Drawing on the attraction-selection-attrition model, upper-echelons theory, and contingency theories of leadership, this study investigated the joint influences of functional roles' proximity to external customers and the senior leadership team's customer orientation on employee customer orientation. Hierarchical linear modeling results based on data obtained from 4,299 employees and 403 senior leaders from 42 facilities of a global manufacturer operating in 16 countries revealed that employees occupying customer-contact roles had the highest level of customer orientation, followed by employees occupying production roles, and then by those in support roles. In addition, there was a positive relationship between the senior leadership team's customer orientation and employee customer orientation for all 3 functional roles. The positive relationship between the senior leadership team and employee customer orientation was the strongest for employees in support roles, suggesting that lower levels of proximity to external customers may create a greater need for leadership in developing employees' customer-oriented attitudes.