[Excerpt] Receiving poor customer service is an irritating experience. Often the first recourse for the customer is to ask to speak to the manager. Undoubtedly, customers make this request with the presumption that the manager plays a pivotal role in ensuring the delivery of service quality and can make things better. Situations where the manager fails to do so can be frustrating for both customers and subordinate employees.
As important as managers are to service delivery, it is paradoxically true that due to the nature of service production, they have less control over service quality than their counterparts in manufacturing (Bowen & Schneider, 1988). Accordingly, managers in service organizations must create situations where the work environment is supportive of service quality (Schneider, White, & Paul, 1998). Schneider and his colleagues (e.g., Bowen & Schneider1988; Schneider, 1990; Schneider et al., 1998; Schneider & Gunnarson, 1990) have referred to this environment as a “climate for customer service.” Indeed, a number of studies (see Dean, 2004, for a review) have suggested that businesses that successfully create a climate for customer service tend to have customers who report higher service quality (Johnson, 1996). Moreover, service climate has a positive relationship with sales through its effects on customer satisfaction (Schneider, Ehrhart, Mayer, Saltz, & Niles-Jolly, 2005). The benefit of creating desired climates is not limited to service climates. This relationship is supported by research linking climate for safety to accidents (Barling, Loughlin, & Kelloway, 2002; Zohar, 2000; Zohar & Luria, 2004) and procedural justice climate to performance and absenteeism (Colquitt, Noe, & Jackson, 2002).
Less documented is how such climates are created in the first place. One stream of research investigating the development of climates has focused on specific managerial behaviors, actions, and practices. For example, Zohar and Luria (2004) found that coherent or consistent managerial behaviors were significant predictors of safety climate. In this article, we seek to go back a step in the causal chain by exploring personality as an antecedent of managers’ service quality orientations. Following J. Hogan, Hogan, and Busch (1984), we define service quality orientation as a set of “attitudes and behaviors that affects the quality of the interaction between . . . the staff of any organization and its customers” (p. 167). Our proposal is that managers with certain personality traits are more likely to facilitate the development of a climate for service. Here, we seek to expand upon the work of numerous organizational scholars and to propose that managers with particular personality traits are more likely to exhibit a positive service quality orientation. In what follows, we develop a model explicating the links between personality, managerial service quality orientation, and a climate for customer service.