Retail customers as partial employees in service provision: A conceptual framework

Hean Tat Keh, Chi Wei Teo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


Explores the concept of viewing retail customers as partial employees. When retailers provide services to customers, they tend to rely solely on store employees, missing out on a hidden asset, their customers. When shopping, customers perform two roles: in-role; and extra-role. The former term refers to the work that a customer has to do when shopping, such as driving to the store. Extra-role behaviour refers to voluntary behaviour on the part of the customer, e.g. cooperating with employees of the organisation and sharing their positive experiences with other customers. Customers are viewed as “partial employees” due to their participation in supplying labour and knowledge to the service creation process. A conceptual framework to study the phenomenon of using customers as partial employees is proposed and literature from marketing, economics, psychology and organisational behaviour is drawn upon. Research propositions and a future research agenda are advanced.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)370-378
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Retail & Distribution Management
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2001


  • Consumer behaviour
  • Retail trade

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