Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Management, Operations & Marketing


The purpose of this thesis is two-fold. This study investigates the effects new public management (NPM) reforms have on public servants in one particular agency. The results of this investigation suggest that one of the reform programs, customer service orientation, appeared to be of concern to public servants affecting their motivation and morale. This led to further research with the aim to explore a likely relationship between customer service orientation and motivation. Therefore, the two research problems investigated in this thesis are:

1. What, if any, effects do new public management reforms have on public servants?

2. Does an organisation’s customer service orientation have an impact on public service motives and if so, how?

Answers to these questions are important for the implementation and management of reform programs and for the effective and efficient performance of public service organisations. Motivation in particular is a critical component for job satisfaction, organisational commitment, and good citizenship behaviour, and as such has important ramifications for the organisation’s performance, culture, and ultimately its customers.

The study starts with in-depth interviews with employees from one public service agency that experienced major reform processes. The findings of this first part of the investigation indicate that public servants were indeed affected by the reform process and although they had high expectations of the reforms at the onset, they were quickly disillusioned. The main areas of concern were found to be customer service, morale, and motivation. To explain the interview data two existing constructs are used. The customer service construct includes information-based, culture and philosophy-based, and service and interaction-based interpretations of customer service orientation (CSO), whereas the motivation construct is based on public service motives (PSM) and explains rational, normative, affective, and self-sacrifice motives. The findings suggest that public servant’s perception of their organisation’s customer service orientation had an impact on their motivation and morale.

The second phase of this study uses these findings to investigate this proposition on a larger scale across a number of different public service organisations. First, a conceptual model has been developed, based on the two constructs used in the previous phase of the study. Twenty hypotheses are posited in an attempt to explain the impact of customer service orientation and its individual dimensions on public service motives and its individual dimensions. An online survey provided 314 usable responses that were analysed using a partial least squares structural equation modelling (PLS-SEM) technique. This method has soft distributional assumptions useful for exploring and developing theory. The two-step approach of PLS-SEM ensured the measures were validated before analysing the relationships between the constructs. The findings provide evidence supporting eighteen of the twenty proposed hypotheses.

The results of this study support the findings from the first phase of the investigation, showing that customer service orientation has a significant impact on public service motives, although the strength of the relationship between the two constructs is weaker than expected. However, given that motivation is a complex construct influenced by a number of different factors even a small variance is significant. The most important aspect of the findings however, is the strong association of the culture and philosophy-based interpretation of CSO on public service motives.

The findings of the study contribute to academic research by investigating the relationship of two constructs that hitherto has not been reported in the extant literature. Practical contributions include insights into the motivational aspects of public servants and the importance of implementing and fostering a strong customer service orientation culture.


RIS ID: 101601