What is it about?

This article introduces customer stewardship control (CSC) to the marketing field. This concept represents a frontline employee's felt ownership of and moral responsibility for customers' overall welfare. In two studies, the authors show that CSC is a more encompassing construct than customer orientation, which reflects a frontline employee's focus on meeting customers' needs. They provide evidence that the former is more potent in shaping in- and extra-role employee behaviors. Moreover, they highlight how CSC operates in conjunction with an organization's agency control system: Stewardship's positive influence on in- and extra-role behavior is weaker in the presence of high agency control. They offer actionable advice about how to solve the resulting managerial control dilemma. Finally, the authors show that CSC depends on drivers that reside at the individual level (employee relatedness), the team level (team competence), or both levels of aggregation (employee and team autonomy). These findings show how to effectively design a frontline employee's work environment to ensure optimal frontline performance.

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Why is it important?

In the past decade, many examples of mismanagement and ethical misconduct have severely damaged firms’ relational equity with their customers. In response, stakeholders have urged companies to act more responsibly in serving customers and safeguard their interests. Rather than controlling employee behavior with rules and monitoring, stewardship theorists assert that perceptions of problem ownership and responsibility underlie employees’ determination to perform because they become vested in customer outcomes. In this case, relationships between employees and their customers are characterized by a sense of moral responsibility that is not formally imposed. This article introduces the concept of customer stewardship control, identify its antecedents, and demonstrate that it is a more encompassing construct than customer orientation.


Our study shows that firms do not need to rely exclusively on formal control systems. Managers can educate frontline employees to focus on customers’ overall welfare. Turning service bureaucrats into service champions is possible if stewardship principles are implemented within the firm!

Dr Maik Hammerschmidt
Georg-August-Universitat Gottingen

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Principles and Principals: Do Customer Stewardship and Agency Control Compete or Complement When Shaping Frontline Employee Behavior?, Journal of Marketing, November 2012, American Marketing Association (AMA), DOI: 10.1509/jm.11.0112.
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