In recent years, businesses have rushed to adopt an empowerment approach to service delivery in which employees face customers “free of rulebooks,” encouraged to do whatever is necessary to satisfy them. But that approach may not be right for everyone. Bowen and Lawler look at the benefits and costs of empowering employees, the range of management practices that empower employees to varying degrees, and key business characteristics that affect the choice of approaches. Managers need to make sure that there is a good fit between their organizational needs and their approach to frontline employees.
1. T. Levitt, “Production-Line Approach to Service,” Harvard Business Review, September–October 1972, pp. 41–52; and
T. Levitt, “Industrialization of Service,” Harvard Business Review, September–October 1976, pp. 63–74
2. Levitt (1972).
3. D. Tansik, “Managing Human Resource Issues for High-Contact Service Personnel,” in Service Management Effectiveness, eds. D. Bowen, R. Chase, and T. Cummings (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990).
4. R. Zemke and D. Schaaf, The Service Edge: 101 Companies That Profit from Customer Care (New York: New American Library, 1989), p.68.
5. As quoted in Zemke and Schaaf (1989), p. 68.
6. J. Carlzon, Moments of Truth (New York: Ballinger, 1987).
7. V. Zeithaml, A. Parasuraman, and L.L. Berry, Delivering Quality Service: Balancing Customer Perceptions and Expectations (New York: The Free Press, 1990). See also:
B. Schneider and D. Bowen, “Employee and Customer Perceptions of Service in Banks: Replication and Extension,” Journal of Applied Psychology 70 (1985): 423–433.
8. Schneider and Bowen (1985).
10. Zeithaml, Parasuraman, and Berry (1990).
11. C. Goodwin and I. Ross, “Consumer Evaluations of Responses to Complaints: What's Fair and Why,” Journal of Services Marketing 4 (1990): 53–61.
12. See E.E. Lawler III, High-Involvement Management (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1986).
13. See E.E. Lawler III, “Choosing an Involvement Strategy,” Academy of Management Executive 2 (1988): 197–204.
14. See for example J.R. Hackman and G.R. Oldham, Work Redesign (Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1980).
16. R.J. Sutton and A. Rafaeli, “Untangling the Relationship between Displayed Emotions and Organizational Sales: The Case of Convenience Stores,” Academy of Management Journal 31 (1988): 461–487
17. E.E. Lawler III, G.E. Ledford, Jr., and S.A. Mohrman, Employee Involvement in America: A Study of Contemporary Practice (Houston: American Productivity & Quality Center, 1989).