Empirical Study of the Influence of Consumer Relationship Proneness on Customer Loyalty in Service Context

Xi Feng, Mingli Zhang, Jianhua Ye
2015 International Journal of u- and e- Service, Science and Technology  
Consumer relationship proneness (CRP) reflects a consumer's relatively stable and conscious tendency to engage in relationships. This study takes CRP as an important consumer individual trait and examines the influence of CRP on customer loyalty in service environment from perspective of relational benefits (i.e. confidence benefits, social benefits, special treatment benefits). Concept model is proposed to explain the influence. Then SEM (structural equation modeling) is used to analyze the
more » ... d to analyze the data collected from online survey to test the proposed model. Empirical results show that CRP has direct influence on customer loyalty. The results also show that CRP indirectly relates to customer loyalty via its impact on perceived confidence benefits and social benefits. This study deepens the understanding about the importance of CRP and provides insights into development and implement of customer relationship management and relationship marketing for service enterprises. stable and conscious tendency to engage in relationships [13, 14] . CRP is a vital customer trait affecting the relationship marketing outcomes. Consumers who are inclined to engage in relationships with suppliers (i.e. relationship-prone) have higher level of trust and commitment [15] .They show greater adherence to provider's requests and develop more possibility of intention to remain with firm compared to those who are not relationship-prone [16] . From a profitability perspective, it is not surprising that practitioners want to attract and retain these relationship-prone consumers [17] . Literature criticize the implementation of relationship marketing strategies without first more fully accounting for the influence of additional relationship factors and their potential performance implications [18, 19] . Researchers are suggested to examine more individual-level variables of the consumers as factors determining the maintenance of their relationship with the supplier [14, 20] . CRP is an important customer trait affecting the relationship marketing outcomes that companies strive to achieve [13, 14] , while the potential impact of CRP upon the effectiveness of customer relationship management has not been fully explored [14, 21] . Therefore, this article seeks to further understanding of the relevance and importance of CRP to relationship marketing and customer management activities. This study treats CRP as an important individual difference variable and examines the influence of CRP on customer loyalty in service environment from perspective of relational benefits (i.e. confidence benefits, social benefits, special treatment benefits). Specially, this research explores how CRP affects the perceived relational benefits as an antecedent variable and how CRP affects the customer loyalty via relational benefits. The authors believe that understanding of CRP can provide important insights for service providers in the successful management of customer relationships. In the following sections, this article reviews the relevant literature of CRP, relational benefits and customer loyalty. Then the concept model about the effect of CRP on relational benefits and customer loyalty is proposed. Finally, the article offers the results of empirical study as well as management applications and directions for future research. Literature Review and Hypotheses Development Customer Relationship Proneness Christy, Oliver, and Penn [22] use "psychologically predisposed" to express the idea that some customers are intrinsically inclined to engage in relationships than others. Compared to those "non-relationship" customers, these customers are inclined to engage in relationships. They are looking for close relationship while others prefer a short-term contact [23] . Researchers use the term relationship proneness to reflect the consumer's relatively stable and conscious tendency to engage in relationships with sellers of a particular product category [13, 14, 24] . The definition emphasizes a conscious tendency to engage in relationships as opposed to loyalty based more on inertia or convenience. It is recognized that CRP varies between customers, but there is little empirical evidence of this. However, the significance of this trait is evident for the analysis of loyalty, given that if a person is not prone to maintain a relationship with a supplier, it will be difficult to achieve his/her loyalty [25]. Relational Benefits Whether the consumer would like to keep relationship with the service firms not only depends on the provided products or services, but also lies on the benefits
doi:10.14257/ijunesst.2015.8.4.19 fatcat:7s3odb5a7fdf5i6vm64tchquhu