The Investigation of Drivers for Cultivating Interpersonal Relationships with Customers
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
To allow publication of research
The research aims to investigate why firm’s employees cultivate interpersonal relationships with their customers, and identify the drivers for their relational behaviours. In the preliminary study, two performance-based defence equipment provision contracts were investigated in an attempt to understand the role of interpersonal relationships between individual service providers and customers in a maintenance, repair and overhaul environment where firms need to deliver outcomes jointly with the customer. Through two years of field work using in-depth interviews, the study uncovered two types of interpersonal relationships between service providers and customers; exchange and communal. Both strongly promoted cooperation at the individual level. In exchange relationships, service providers and customers cooperated reciprocally whilst in communal relationships, they shared a common group identity and cooperated communally towards the attainment of group goals. Specifically, individuals’ perceived reciprocity from the customer and communal orientation have been identified as drivers for relationship development. The relationship drivers were discovered through qualitative data and were matched with extant academic literature, after which several hypotheses and a measurement instrument were developed. The hypotheses and instrument were then validated through a quantitative study using exploratory factor analysis and regression analysis. Data was collected from a sample consisting of 224 Chinese salespeople dealing with business customers in manufacturing as well as service industries. The findings were used to develop a theoretical framework which showed that cognition (e.g. perceived consequences), affect (e.g. liking) and specific personality traits (e.g. communal orientation) were drivers for relational behaviours. In particular, communal orientation, perceived reciprocity from the customer, and a liking for the customer positively affected relational behaviours, while exchange orientation had a negative impact on those behaviours. This research provides a generic theoretical model of firm’s employees’ relational behaviours in the service provision and marketing context, filling in the gaps found in previous relationship marketing research by studying relationship drivers for individual-level customer relationships.
Ng, Irene C. L.
PhD in Management Studies