Model Frontline Customer Service Providers: From Their Own Perspectives

Model Frontline Customer Service Providers: From Their Own Perspectives

Author: 
David Buchman
Program of study: 
D.M.
Abstract: 
By learning to select better, well-informed candidates for the challenging frontline roles in the hospitality industry and learning to provide personal and professional, physical, emotional, and developmental support to their staffs, organizations may be able to reduce costs associated with employee turnover. The primary purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore the characteristics of the archetype frontline customer service provider based on the perceptions of model employees themselves. The secondary purpose was to explore shared characteristics relating to how model frontline customer service providers maintain motivation and longevity within their professions. A better understanding of these shared characteristics could provide managers in the industry additional tools for influencing frontline customer service providers to maintain their motivation in providing consistent, long-term superior customer service. For the purpose of this qualitative case study, the model frontline customer service provider was identified by tenure (a minimum of three years in their organization) and documented evidence of strong operational and customer service skills. The focus of the present study was on hospitality organizations in the Orlando, Florida area; initial sample size included three front desk clerks, three restaurant servers, and three theme park attractions attendants. Data was collected through individual face to face interviews between the researcher and subjects. Data analysis followed the content analysis method. Social identity theory served as the theoretical framework for this study. Implications aligned with existing research: frontline customer service providers have little understanding or appreciation for their roles in the industry when they begin their careers. Future research recommendations include replicating this study with samples outside of the Orlando, Florida area or with participants not defined as model frontline customer service providers.
Dedication: 
I dedicate this dissertation to the three most important people in my life. Completing this work fulfills not only my educational dreams, but also the dreams of my parents, Sam and Marlene Buchman. Thank you both for giving me life and for fostering my love for learning and research. My greatest regret is that I was unable to complete my work before losing you both. You both inspire me to this day. For nearly 30 years, Donald Cupo has been by my side, encouraging me in all my pursuits. I know it was not easy to keep me calm throughout my doctoral journey, especially as I suffered panic attacks associated with deadlines, work projects, and attending to mom during her illness. Your patience is amazing and you continue to teach me about what is truly important in life. Thank you for your love and support. I am the luckiest man in the world.
Acknowledgements: 
Thank you to everyone who contributed to my success in completing this dissertation process. Dr. John Peed has been with me throughout this entire journey and he volunteered immediately when the chair position on my dissertation committee became available. Your humor and directness helped keep me sane during some dark times. Thank you to Dr. Shana Nicholson, my original committee chair, who helped start me on the right track. Thank you, as well, to my two amazing committee members, Dr. Linda Gutsch and Dr. Janice Terrell. Dr. Terrell expressed interest in my study from the very start, allowing me the satisfaction of knowing my work could have meaning and value. Dr. Gutsch, who joined my dissertation team during the final stages of my doctoral process, offered feedback allowing me the satisfaction of knowing my work did have meaning and value. Thank you to some amazing work leaders who remained flexible and encouraging during my doctoral journey. In particular, I thank my leaders from Valencia College: Jim Inglis, Dr. James McDonald, and Dr. Dale Husbands. Thank you, as well, to Rosa Sanchez of Valencia College, for your kind words and continued interest in my work. Additionally, I thank Megan George and Tom Izzo who rearranged my schedules, sometimes at the last minute, so I could meet deadlines and attend to personal matters over the course of my studies. Thank you to leaders at Universal Studios, Orlando, for helping to support my studies financially during the first year of my journey. Thank you to my family, friends, and cohorts who have listened to me talk about the challenges of doctoral research for the past four years. Thank you to my sisters, brother, nieces, nephews and in-laws. Thank you to Jean Cupo; I hesitate to call you my mother-in-law because you are a second mother to me. Thank you to Sharon and Bob, my Hooten-Wazhur family and besties. A special thank you to Jeoma Jay, my cohort in nearly every doctoral class during my journey. Although we have never met in person, your passion and support in our shared projects challenged me to work more diligently and achieve my goals. Thank you, as well, to Dr. Cassandra Smith who provided support and care throughout our entire shared journey. Thank you to the Osceola Library for providing the perfect location for me to conduct my participant interviews. Thank you to my participants for your generosity of time and information to my research. I thank you, mostly, for your continued commitment to the hospitality and tourism industry. Your passion for providing superior guest service inspires me.