Customer feedback is an invaluable source of information for organisations engaged in service innovation and improvement. In most service organisations there are employees that deal with customers on a day-to-day basis. These are the service engineers, the sales personnel, the customer assistants and reception staff – people who have frequent and close contact with the customer base. These front-line employees (FLEs) are perfectly positioned to provide feedback about the organisation’s service provision, both in terms of their own views on the customer-service interaction (voice of the employee – VoE), and their perceptions of the customers’ views on that interaction (voice of the customer through the voice of the employee – VoCE). Unfortunately, many companies neglect FLEs as a potential source of knowledge and value.
We set out to construct a framework that would allow organisations to tap into this rich source of knowledge about their customers. We accomplished this in two stages. First we constructed an FLE feedback framework, informed by previous research touching on the topic, as well as a workshop designed to capture information and ideas about the issues involved. Once that model was designed we tested it in a real-world business setting. Through this in-depth case study we were able to further refine the framework to provide a useful tool for organisations to encourage and facilitate the capture of FLE feedback in a structured way. With the appropriate high-level support, organisations can leverage FLE knowledge and insights to improve customer relations, as well as improving the scope and quality of the services and service experience that they offer. This in turn feeds into competitive advantage and sustainable success.