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The Impact of Customer Contact Personnel on Innovation in Service Firms

This study examines how information from customer interactions affects innovation of service organizations. Previous research on innovation has centered on the importance of the acquisition and utilization of knowledge within the innovation process. Organizations who are better able to acquire and utilize knowledge gain advantages in delivering and developing innovation. While the acquisition and utilization of knowledge in general is important to the innovation process, the literature views necessary one particular type of knowledge: knowledge of the customer. Given the importance of customer knowledge, much of the literature focuses on mechanisms organizations employ to engage customers to gather this type of information. While interacting with customers to gain information is important to innovation in all firms, that interaction has particular implications for service organizations which rely on the dual role of customer contact personnel (CCPs). During service production, CCPs gather information from customers (preferences, needs and desires), and use it in the production of the offering. CCPs occupy a unique position in service organizations, as they sit at the nexus of information gathering and information utilization. Considering the position that CCPs occupy in service organizations, it is surprising that little attention has been directed at examining the role of CCPs in service innovation. Therefore, this paper examines whether increasing levels of customer interaction with CCP will lead to more innovation in service firms. Moreover it will determine how knowledge structures matched with level of CCP-customer interaction can lead to different types of innovation in service firms. Lastly, it will investigate how levels of autonomy (of CCP) with certain types of innovation will influence performance.