The complementarity of frontline service employee creativity and attention to detail in service delivery

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13 Citations (Scopus)


To deliver superior customer service, frontline service employees (FSEs) need to be creative while also being attentive to detail. However, achieving the right balance between these behaviors is difficult; too much focus on one to the detriment of the other can diminish service performance. Using data from two independent studies of microservice and small service firms, we examine the interplay of employee creativity and attention to detail in driving service performance. The results reveal that at high levels of attention to detail, greater creativity will increase service performance and vice versa. In contrast, at low levels of attention to detail, increasing employee creativity enhances service performance up to a point, after which it declines, and vice versa. Thus, increasing creativity when attention to detail is low or enhancing attention to detail when creativity is low is likely to be harmful to firms. Our findings suggest that managers should empower FSEs to be ambidextrous—they need to engage in high levels of both creativity and attention-to-detail behaviors–to enhance service performance. Firms should invest in training to increase FSEs’ ability to engage in these behaviors simultaneously and create an environment that enhances their self-confidence to do so.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-378
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Service Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • ambidexterity
  • attention to detail
  • creativity
  • frontline service employee performance

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