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Oklahoma State University
Center for Customer Interface Excellence

Spears School of Business at Oklahoma State University

Organizational Frontlines Research

The importance of effectively managing interactions between frontline employees and customers has been well recognized by scholars and practitioners alike for some time. For example, the two dominant paradigms in the marketing discipline over the past 60 years, exchange and relationship management, focus directly on the interactions between buyers and sellers of products and services. Much of the work that develops frontline theory and research, however, has been undertaken across different “silos” within the marketing literature (e.g., retailing, services, personal selling). Further, a great deal of scholarly research in areas such as organizational behavior and human resources addresses the recruitment, management, and retention of frontline employees who are expected to interact with an organization’s customers.

With respect to scholarship, one goal of the Center for Customer Interface Excellence is to foster the integration of scholarly research across these disparate academic fields and subfields. If the overriding objective of applied scholarship is to develop answers for important problems, allowing scholars across domains to inform and inspire one another seems a worthy venture. As a result, the Center for Customer Interface Excellence commits its resources – time, influence, and money – to various efforts that are consistent with this objective. For example, the Center hosted the 2015 Organizational Frontlines Research Symposium on our Stillwater campus. This invitation-only event brought together over 40 scholars from around the world for two days of stimulating interaction. Importantly, our guests included scholars who study services marketing, retailing, personal selling, and the management of frontline employees; the Symposium provided an opportunity for these scholars to meet and exchange ideas with scholars in different areas. The Symposium also supported the development of invited papers for a special section in the Journal of Service Research on the topic of organizational frontlines research co-edited by Todd Arnold (Center Associate Director), Mike Brady (Florida State University), Tom Brown (Center Director), and Jagdip Singh (Case Western Reserve University).

What is Organizational Frontlines Research (OFR)?

Organizational Frontlines Research (OFR) is the study of interactions and interfaces at the point-of-contact that promote, facilitate, or enable the exchange of valued resources between an organization and its key stakeholders.

  • Interactions/interfaces may be human, technological, virtual or some combination thereof.
  • Key stakeholders include customers, consumers, suppliers and employees.
  • OFR studies include the nature of, influences on, and effects of frontline interactions/interfaces.

Characteristics of Organizational Frontlines Research

  • OFR develops and applies theory to important business phenomena.
  • OFR is a distinct area of inquiry that crosses inter- and intra-disciplinary boundaries.
  • OFR is often multi-level in nature.