Edited by Robert M. Morgan, Janet Turner Parish and George Deitz
The publication of a book on relationship marketing attests to the immense interest, among academics and practitioners alike, in various facets of the relationships between commercial exchange partners. Our particular interest in this topic stems from our research into the benefits that accrue to customers when they engage in long-term relationships with companies. These customer relational benefits (RBs), in our research, consist of “those benefits customers receive from long-term relationships above and beyond the core service performance” (Gwinner et al. 1998: 102). For example, in an overnight delivery context, the on-time delivery of a package by a package delivery service represents the core service provision. Repeated usage of the firm that has resulted in many successful, on-time deliveries should lead a customer to feel confidence and reduced anxiety about the next package arriving on time; confidence and reduced anxiety represent the RB. Building on our interest in RBs, we pursue two primary goals in this chapter. First, we seek to review and categorize extant literature that explores RBs from the customer’s perspective. We also compare and contrast RBs with switching costs in the course of making the observation that these two constructs actually may describe the same phenomena. Second, on the basis of our review and observations, we offer a variety of suggestions for further academic inquiry within the RB domain. In suggesting a research agenda, we hope to spark additional exploration into this research topic that is both managerially relevant and theoretically grounded.
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