Antecedents and consequences of relationship importance and relationship quality during the sales process
Relationship marketing is emerging as a major theme in the marketing literature. Its central focus is the establishment, development, and maintenance of relationships between exchange partners (Morgan and Hunt 1994). The relationship definition of marketing states that the goal of "marketing is to establish, maintain, enhance, and commercialize customer relationships so that the objectives of the parties involved are met" (Gronroos, 1990). It is believed that good quality relationships improve the chance that relationships continue (Crosby, Evans and Cowles, 1990). This study investigates the antecedents of good relationships and the role relationship quality plays in determining whether relationships will continue. It also examines the determinants of relationship importance and its effect on the likelihood of continued interaction.
Three major research questions are posed: In what types of buying situations are relationships important to the customer? What determines the quality of buyer seller relationships? and Is the role of relationship quality in determining the likelihood of continued interaction moderated by the importance of the relationship between buyer and seller? Using constructs from existing literature, a model is developed to address these questions. A mail survey instrument measures each of the constructs in the model and is sent to buyers and purchasing agents in industrial firms.
This study provides many interesting results. Inherent risk factors, such as financial risk and termination costs, are the most influential determinants of relationship importance, while additional situational measures may be needed. In terms of relationship quality, a number of factors are significant determinants, some attributed to the characteristics of the salesperson and others attributed to the relationship itself. The likelihood of continued interaction is strongly influenced by relationship quality and enhanced by the addition of relationship importance.
These results in terms of marketing theory suggest that relationship importance should be included in models that investigate relationship quality and that there are many dimensions of relationships that influence whether relationships continue. For managers, these results suggest the salesperson's ability to develop and maintain strong customer relationships improves the chance that relationships continue. Relationship importance also influences the appropriateness of relationship marketing strategies.
0451: Social psychology