Sales-Service Ambidexterity on Salesperson Performance: Do Role Characteristics Play a Role?

Primary author: Muzi Liu
Co-author(s): Muzi Liu; Pavan Munaganti
Faculty sponsor: Dr. Babu John Mariadoss

Primary college/unit: Carson College of Business
Campus: Pullman


Firms are increasingly requiring their frontline employees to play an ambidextrous role, that is, engage in “both sales and service activities regardless of formal title or position” (Rapp et al. 2017, 59). While ambidexterity refers to the simultaneous pursuit of dual, and often conflicting strategic goals (Simsek 2009), service researchers have focused on service-sales ambidexterity by examining service personnel who perform sales activities (e.g., Gwinner et al. 2005; Jasmand, Blazevic, & de Ruyter 2012), and sales researchers have focused on sales-service ambidexterity by examining service performance within the salesforce (e.g., Ahearne, Jelinek, & Jones 2007). Recent research (e.g., Rapp et al. 2017) suggests that the capacity of employees to function ambidextrously depends on whether their dual sales and service roles are perceived as a stressor, and whether firms can create conditions facilitating role integration and reconciling competing individual-level role demands, leading to successful alignment between customer service and sales. Extant literature (e.g., Singh 1998; Johnson, Anderson, & Fornell 1995) suggests that the blurring of roles between sales and service personnel can have implications on employee role characteristics such as role conflict, role ambiguity and role overload, and ultimately affect performance. The purpose of this research is to examine the effect of ambidexterity on performance, through the mediating effect of salesperson role characteristics. In two studies, we find that sales-service ambidexterity leads to increased perceived role conflict, ambiguity, and overload amongst frontline employees, and ultimately in diminished frontline employee performance.