Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Publications Database

Implementing the Marketing Concept at the Employee–Customer Interface: The Role of Customer Need Knowledge

Homburg, Christian
Wieseke, Jan
Volume: 73
Number: 4
Pages: 64 - 81
ISSN-Print: 0022-2429
Link External Source: Online Version
Year: 2009
Keywords: customer need knowledge, employee–customer interface, customer orientation, customer satisfaction, willingness to pay

Although the identification of customer needs constitutes a cornerstone of the marketing concept, the accuracy of frontline employees' perceptions of customer needs has never been examined in a systematic manner. Following research in social cognition, this article introduces the concept of “customer need knowledge” (CNK), which describes the extent to which a frontline employee can accurately identify a given customer's hierarchy of needs. The results of two large-scale, multilevel investigations involving data from three different levels (customers, employees, and managers) demonstrate the importance of CNK for the provision of customer satisfaction and customer value. In particular, CNK fully mediates the influence of employees' customer orientation and cognitive empathy on these customer outcomes. Moreover, whereas the length of the relationship between an employee and a particular customer enhances CNK, a large age discrepancy in relation to the customer decreases employees' level of CNK.