The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Linkages Between Employee and Customer Perceptions in Business-to-Business Services – Towards Positively Deviant Performances

Merja Fischer

Doctoral dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the School of Science for public examination and debate in Auditorium AS1 at the Aalto University School of Science (Espoo, Finland) on the 17th of February 2012 at 12 noon.

Dissertation in PDF format (ISBN 978-952-60-4474-3)   [3314 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 978-952-60-4473-6)


This dissertation studies how employees' perceptions of their supervisors, workplace climate, internal quality and personal engagement impact on customers' perceptions of service quality in a business-to-business service. This thesis builds on existing service marketing literature and expands it by examining whether the types of interactions between service employees and customers have an impact on the structure of the service profit chain (SPC) model.

The empirical data of this study concern 38 service business units worldwide in an international corporation in the field of power solutions for the marine and energy market. The research data consists of employee data collected in 2007 (n=2403) and customer data collected between 2007- 08 (n=1987). The statistical method of structural equation and path modeling are used in the theory testing.

In addition to the theory testing of a model explicating employees' perceptions of their organization and customers' perceptions of service quality, the study makes a theoretical contribution by connecting the service marketing perspective with some insight from positive organizational scholarship (POS). The study explores the means to foster positively deviant service businesses using the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions by Fredrickson as well as other studies and theories in positive organizational scholarship.

This study makes three major contributions. Firstly, in the first part of the work, the linkages between employee and customer perceptions using data from two employee groups, account managers and field service engineers, are discussed and statistically verified using the empirical data presented. The study shows the relevance of the physical and psychological closeness of the employees and customers as a key parameter for the structure of the linkage model in a business-to-business context. Thus the results presented in this thesis suggest that account managers' perceptions of workplace climate predicts customers' perceptions of service quality, whereas in the case of field service engineers, their personal engagement predicts customers' perceptions. Secondly, the thesis makes a theoretical contribution by proposing a POS-based perspective on service businesses indicating four key dimensions to be addressed when developing what is called positively deviant service businesses.

Thirdly, a novel model, the model of positively deviant service businesses is introduced to linkage research, along with a new concept of climate for positivity.

Keywords: linkage research, service profit chain, positive emotions, model of positively deviant service businesses, climate for positivity

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© 2012 Aalto University

Last update 2012-10-31