Developing our Understanding of Patronizing Frontline Employees


Marketing and Professional Sales

Document Type


Publication Date



Purpose – In an overwhelming portion of the US service economy, the multifaceted responsibilities that frontline employees play as patrons have been overlooked within the academic literature. The notion of employees as customers is a common business practice that garners sizeable benefits to both the firm and its employees; unfortunately, research on this topic is still in its infancy. The purpose of this paper is to examine the impact of internal marketing and job satisfaction on employee patronage, and the role of patronage on employee engagement in a Cooperative Extension Service System.

Design/methodology/approach – An online survey administered to Cooperative Extension employees in frontline service roles was used to test the proposed structural model. Structural equation modeling carried out using the Amos 18.0 software program was employed to analyze the proposed hypotheses.

Findings – It was found that internal marketing is composed of five dimensions, as tested using a second-order hierarchical structure. Based on the hypothesized linkages, internal marketing and job satisfaction were revealed to be two important factors relevant in determining employee patronage. Furthermore, the results show that employee patronage positively influences employee engagement, thus advancing the benefits of employees in dual roles.

Practical implications – The findings show that the internal and external role of employees is reflective of the firm's ability to grow two important relationships that are vital to the company's success. To tap into employees as patrons, organizations must carefully and simultaneously implement internal marketing practices most suitable to the structure of their market and firm. Particularly, communicating to employees the favorable qualities of a service through reoccurring training programs also serves as a vital means of building interaction between the firm and its customers.

Originality/value – The value of the paper is two fold. First, it reveals an alternative way of measuring internal marketing, and encourages the future assessment of internal marketing as a multi-dimensional structure rather than a one-dimensional factor. Second, this research confirms the presence of employee patronage, while also examining predictors and outcomes of employee patronage in a service industry.