Customer participation in services and employee innovative behavior: The mediating role of interpersonal trust

Minglong Li, Cathy Hui-chun Hsu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper aims to investigate the influence of customer participation in services on the innovative behaviors of employees. Although previous studies have acknowledged the importance of customers in service innovation and investigated how customer participation in product development teams affect innovation, the effect of mandatory customer participation in services on the employee innovative behavior has not been examined. In addition to addressing such gap, this study proposed the mediating role of interpersonal trust in the relationship between customer participation and employee innovative behavior and then tested the hypotheses in a restaurant context. Design/methodology/approach: A total of 514 valid questionnaires were collected from frontline employees or entry-level managers in 25 well-known restaurants (including 14 hotels and 11 freestanding restaurants) in Beijing, China. The relationships among customer participation, interpersonal trust and employee innovative behavior were examined using structural models analyzed in AMOS 20.0. Findings: The structural equation modeling results indicate that customers’ information and emotional participation in services significantly influence the innovative behavior of employees, whereas behavioral participation does not. In addition, a high level of interpersonal trust between customers and employees may increase employee innovative behaviors. Moreover, unlike cognitive trust, affective trust mediates the relationship between customer information or emotional participation and employee innovative behavior. Practical implications: Findings indicate that service firms can encourage customers to participate actively in service co-creation; their participation in terms of information is encouraged to foster employee innovative behaviors by training employees and establishing an appropriate climate for information exchange. Moreover, service firms must pay attention to the emotions of customers during the service processes. Furthermore, the affective trust between customers and employees is significant to service firms, which need to take measures for employees to manage their relationships with customers well. Originality/value: Based on the concepts of service marketing and organizational behavior, this study contributes to the research on customer–employee co-production and employee innovative behavior from an interdisciplinary perspective. The study reveals the influencing mechanism of customer participation on employee innovative behavior and contributes to the research on customer–employee interpersonal trust. Previous studies emphasized the importance of trust among work group members in innovation, while this study supports the association between customer–employee interpersonal trust and employee innovative behaviors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2112-2131
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Affective trust
  • Cognitive trust
  • Customer participation
  • Employee innovative behavior
  • Services

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management

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