Edited by Roland T. Rust and Ming-Hui Huang
As competition to win the loyalty of customers grows (Palmatier et al. 2006), relationship marketing is often suggested as a critical strategy for achieving retention (Gwinner et al. 1998) and ultimately higher sales, market share, and profits (Crosby et al. 1990; Morgan and Hunt 1994). Against this background, a substantial body of literature focused on understanding the customer-provider relationship has developed. Our knowledge of the benefits a customer derives from a relationship (Gwinner et al. 1998), of how relationship quality is evaluated (Hennig-Thurau 2000; Kumar et al. 1995), and of the factors that drive strong customer-provider relationships (De Wulf et al. 2001; Palmatier et al. 2006) has increased greatly. Importantly, viewing customer relationships as a source of loyalty has focused research attention on examining the relationship factors that drive retention, repeat purchase and recommendation (Palmatier et al. 2006). Although the breadth of factors posited to influence customer loyalty is substantial, commitment, trust and satisfaction are seen as central to strong customer-firm relationships (De Wulf et al. 2001; Palmatier et al. 2006; Smith 1998). While these factors have been studied individually (for example, Bolton 1998; Harris and Goode 2004), they are frequently examined in subsets (for example, Aydin and Ozer 2005; Jap and Ganesan 2000; Wong and Sohal 2002) or as components of larger relationship marketing models (for example, Palmatier et al. 2006).
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