Customer-oriented frontline employees are motivated by a strong desire to help customers. While such motivation enhances customer outcomes, it can also encourage frontline employees to engage in customer-directed prosocial behaviors that undermine organizational norms. We consider such a possibility and find that: (1) in their quest to satisfy customers’ needs, customer-oriented employees engage in customer-focused voice and/or pro-customer rule breaking, (2) the extent to which employees perform these behaviors depends on whether they identify with the organization or customers, (3) customer-focused voice enhances while pro-customer rule breaking hinders role performance, (4) the net performance consequences of a customer orientation can be positive or negative, and (5) various contingency factors determine whether rule breaking results in lower performance ratings from supervisors. These findings offer evidence of a customer orientation dark side and, paradoxically, underscore that internally focused marketing efforts are critical for a customer orientation to enhance frontline employee performance.
We underscore that we did not test (and thus do not attempt to model) a 3-way interaction. Rather, our visual (Figure 2) illustrates the joint effect of two competing moderators (i.e., two, 2-way interactions) in order to establish when each type of prosocial behavior is more likely to occur as a function of common identification conditions. Simple slope moderation graphs that consider each moderator in isolation are provided in the Web Appendix for interested readers.