Rapid growth of the service sector worldwide highlights the importance of service quality as a key to organisational performance. As service quality is influenced by the way service is delivered to customers, a key mission of service organisations is to facilitate their employees to form appropriate attitudes and behaviours that deliver quality service. However, increased workforce diversity presents an array of challenges to organisations in effectively fostering employees to develop exemplary service attitudes and behaviours. Employees from different backgrounds tend to have diverse views and motivations towards customer service. Therefore, organisational success largely depends on how managers understand the effects of employees’ personal attributes on their perceptions, attitudes and behaviours towards customer service. This thesis examines the role of personal values and provides an insight into how personal values interact with employee perceptions of service climate and their service delivery.
The research problem in this thesis is twofold. First, while many studies discuss various organisational factors that influence employee perceptions of service climate, there is a limited understanding of how employees’ ‘personal attributes’ affect their service climate perceptions. Specifically, there has been a lack of research examining the effects of personal values on employee perceptions of service climate. Personal values are recognised as the guiding principles of one’s life and fundamental motivations that influence perceptions, attitudes and behaviours. Therefore, employees who embrace different types of personal values would be likely to perceive service climate differently. Unfolding the relationships between personal values and employee perceptions of service climate would help to effectively promote a service climate in a workplace and facilitate employee service attitudes and behaviours. Second, previous research in personal values suggests limited understanding about the effects of personal values on employee service delivery. By addressing the effects of personal values on employee perceptions of service climate and directly on their service delivery, this study provides insights into how personal values play an important role in customer service. As such, this thesis addresses two overarching research questions:
RQ1: What are the relationships between employees’ personal values and their service climate perceptions?
RQ 2: What are the relationships between employees’ personal values and their service delivery?
This thesis is guided by a post-positivist paradigm and comprises two stages. The first stage is a quantitative study, using a survey technique to address the first research question. A total of 487 usable surveys were collected from customer-contact employees working at nine four- and five-star hotels in Australia. The second stage, a qualitative study, involved in-depth, semi-structured interviews. In this stage, two issues were addressed. First, to gain deeper insights into the findings of the first study, the second study sought to examine the underlying reasons that could explain the results of Study 1. Second, it explored the second research question. Critical incident and laddering techniques were used to effectively elicit meaningful information from the interviewees. The survey results found that personal values have only limited effects on employee perceptions of service climate. Underlying reasons to explain this result include the suppressing effects of several key organisational factors, the complexity and focus of the questionnaire, inculcation of organisational values and self-suppression of personal value effects. Contrarily, the study identifies strong effects of personal values on employee service delivery. It also suggests that employees tend to use different attributions for different types of service delivery. Specifically, employees tend to attribute the motivation to deliver quality service to their personal values. On the other hand, they often attribute their service recovery efforts to organisational factors.
The study provides several key implications for theory and practice. Given a lack of research examining the effects of personal values on employee perceptions of service climate and service delivery, this thesis extends our understanding of how an employee’s personal values interact with the factors that are crucial in determining customer-perceived service quality. Furthermore, by clarifying the role of an employee’s personal values in customer service, this thesis contributes to the literature of diversity management in the context of customer service. In practice, the current study offers service and hospitality managers insights into developing better communication systems that make full use of the fundamental motivations of workforce, so as to effectively achieve organisational service excellence.