Customer-oriented deviance (COD) : a conceptualisation, development and validation of a behavioural measure

Leo, Wei Wei (2010) Customer-oriented deviance (COD) : a conceptualisation, development and validation of a behavioural measure. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Frontline employee behaviours are recognised as vital for achieving a competitive advantage for service organisations. The services marketing literature has comprehensively examined ways to improve frontline employee behaviours in service delivery and recovery. However, limited attention has been paid to frontline employee behaviours that favour customers in ways that go against organisational norms or rules. This study examines these behaviours by introducing a behavioural concept of Customer-Oriented Deviance (COD). COD is defined as, “frontline employees exhibiting extra-role behaviours that they perceive to defy existing expectations or prescribed rules of higher authority through service adaptation, communication and use of resources to benefit customers during interpersonal service encounters.” This thesis develops a COD measure and examines the key determinants of these behaviours from a frontline employee perspective. Existing research on similar behaviours that has originated in the positive deviance and pro-social behaviour domains has limitations and is considered inadequate to examine COD in the services context. The absence of a well-developed body of knowledge on non-conforming service behaviours has implications for both theory and practice. The provision of ‘special favours’ increases customer satisfaction but the over-servicing of customers is also counterproductive for the service delivery and costly for the organisation. Despite these implications of non-conforming service behaviours, there is little understanding about the nature of these behaviours and its key drivers. This research builds on inadequacies in prior research on positive deviance, pro-social and pro-customer literature to develop the theoretical foundation of COD. The concept of positive deviance which has predominantly been used to study organisational behaviours is applied within a services marketing setting. Further, it addresses previous limitations in pro-social and pro-customer behavioural literature that has examined limited forms of behaviours with no clear understanding on the nature of these behaviours. Building upon these literature streams, this research adopts a holistic approach towards the conceptualisation of COD. It addresses previous shortcomings in the literature by providing a well bounded definition, developing a psychometrically sound measure of COD and a conceptually well-founded model of COD. The concept of COD was examined across three separate studies and based on the theoretical foundations of role theory and social identity theory. Study 1 was exploratory and based on in-depth interviews using the Critical Incident Technique (CIT). The aim of Study 1 was to understand the nature of COD and qualitatively identify its key drivers. Thematic analysis was conducted to analyse the data and the two potential dimensions of COD behaviours of Deviant Service Adaptation (DSA) and Deviant Service Communication (DSC) were revealed in the analysis. In addition, themes representing the potential influences of COD were broadly classified as individual factors, situational factors, and organisational factors. Study 2 was a scale development procedure that involved the generation and purification of items for the measure based on two student samples working in customer service roles (Pilot sample, N=278; Initial validation sample, N=231). The results for the reliability and Exploratory Factor Analyses (EFA) on the pilot sample suggested the scale had poor psychometric properties. As a result, major revisions were made in terms of item wordings and new items were developed based on the literature to reflect a new dimension, Deviant Use of Resources (DUR). The revised items were tested on the initial validation sample with the EFA analysis suggesting a four-factor structure of COD. The aim of Study 3 was to further purify the COD measure and test for nomological validity based on its theoretical relationships with key antecedents and similar constructs (key correlates). The theoretical model of COD consisting of nine hypotheses was tested on a retail and hospitality sample of frontline employees (Retail N=311; Hospitality N=305) of a market research panel using an online survey. The data was analysed using Structural Equation Modelling (SEM). The results provided support for a re-specified second-order three-factor model of COD which consists of 11 items. Overall, the COD measure was found to be reliable and valid, demonstrating convergent validity, discriminant validity and marginal partial invariance for the factor loadings. The results showed support for nomological validity, although the antecedents had differing impact on COD across samples. Specifically, empathy and perspective-taking, role conflict, and job autonomy significantly influenced COD in the retail sample, whereas empathy and perspective-taking, risk-taking propensity and role conflict were significant predictors in the hospitality sample. In addition, customer orientation-selling orientation, the altruistic dimension of organisational citizenship behaviours, workplace deviance, and social desirability responding were found to correlate with COD. This research makes several contributions to theory. First, the findings of this thesis extend the literature on positive deviance, pro-social and pro-customer behaviours. Second, the research provides an empirically tested model which describes the antecedents of COD. Third, this research contributes by providing a reliable and valid measure of COD. Finally, the research investigates the differential effects of the key antecedents in different service sectors on COD. The research findings also contribute to services marketing practice. Based on the research findings, service practitioners can better understand the phenomenon of COD and utilise the measurement tool to calibrate COD levels within their organisations. Knowledge on the key determinants of COD will help improve recruitment and training programs and drive internal initiatives within the firm.

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ID Code: 32075
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Russell-Bennett, Rebekah & Drennan, Judy
Keywords: services marketing, frontline employees, positive deviant behaviours, pro-social behaviours, pro-customer behaviours
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 30 Apr 2010 04:20
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2017 14:42

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