Customer Preferences for Frontline Employee Traits: Homophily and Heterophily Effects


  • Both the authors contributed equally to this article.


Although previous research has underscored the significance of the personality traits of frontline employees (FLEs) in employee service behaviors, knowledge about customer preferences for FLE personality traits is lacking. This study responds to this gap in the literature, empirically assessing customers’ preferences for FLE personality traits. The main research objective is to investigate whether and how these preferences vary with the customer's own personality. The study proposes and tests a conceptual framework that reconciles two opposing theoretical perspectives—homophily and heterophily. The existing research in interpersonal psychology has only given limited support to the heterophily effect, whereas it has consistently evidenced the homophily effect. Moderator analyses indicate these effects are largely invariant across customer and service characteristics. Notwithstanding this, post hoc tests show that the level of preferred FLE traits is positively related to the level of customer traits. Equity theory helps explain these seemingly conflicting results.