Management of customer-to-customer interaction (CCI) by the front-line employee (FLE) in the supermarket industry

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Research examining the impact of fellow customers on the service experience is well documented within the marketing literature. However, little attention has been paid to the supermarket industry from the perspective of the front-line employee. This study addresses the need for the employee perspective on customer-to-customer interactions (CCI) and identifies the management techniques that are utilised by front-line employees in a service heavy environment. Utilising the critical incidents technique, 49 participants were interviewed across three different locations, 22 employees and 27 customers. The findings identified that FLEs do possess the ability to spot and recall CCI, with the study producing typologies from both perspectives. The findings indicated that some types of CCIs were unique to the FLE viewpoint and not noted by customers. Additionally, the management of CCI from the FLEs perspective is captured in a conceptual framework that showcases CCI management is a process that requires FLEs utilising judgement rather than traditional scripting methods. FLEs identify that many of their techniques originated from experience rather than training. For service researchers, several recommendations are made to further develop the understanding of CCI management including the testing of the conceptual framework in various other industries. It is also recommended that the CCI management techniques are further explored to identify the success or failure of the tactics from the customer perspective. For service managers and FLEs, recommendation was made to improve the current training system and incorporate EBM into their organisational strategy. Organisations currently utilise scripting and set techniques, which were not deemed applicable within this study, but should focus on empowering employees to use their judgement. The wide range of recommendations should stimulate investigation into many new avenues for CCI from both customer and employee perspectives.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Worcester
  • Nicholls, Richard, Supervisor, External person
  • Ross, Catharine, Supervisor, External person
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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