Emotional intelligence in front-line/back-office employee relationships

Purpose—This research undertakes a simultaneous assessment of interdependence in the behaviours of front-line and back-office employees and their joint effect on customer-related organizational performance. It also tests for a moderating influence of the emotional intelligence of front-line salespeople and back-office employees. Design/methodology/approach—The sample comprises 105 front-line sales employees and 77 back-office employees. The customer-related organizational performance data come from a U.K. business-to-business (B2B) electronics company. With these triadic data, this study uses partial least squares to estimate the measurement and structural models. Findings—Salespeople’s customer orientation directly affects customer-related organizational performance; the relationship is moderated by salespeople’s emotional intelligence. The emotional intelligence of salespeople also directly affects the customer directed citizenship behaviour of back-office employees. Furthermore, the emotional intelligence of back-office staff moderates the link between the emotional intelligence of salespeople and back-office staff citizenship behaviour. Back-office staff citizenship behaviour in turn affects customer-related organizational performance. Originality/value—The emotions deployed by employees in interactions with customers clearly shape customers’ perceptions of service quality, as well as employee-level performance outcomes. But prior literature lacks insights into the simultaneous effects of front-line and back-office employee behaviour, especially in B2B settings. This article addresses these research gaps by investigating triadic relationships—among back-office employees, front-line employees and customer outcomes—in a B2B setting, where they are of particular managerial interest.