Building strong relationships between services' providers and consumers: Evidence from Poland

Abstract
This paper analyses nature of Business to Consumer (B2C) relationships on the services market in Poland. Post-modern school of thought focuses on customers as individuals who actively communicate their demands and switch between sellers rather on the basis of quality of exchange interactions stream than technical (objective) quality of a product. Growing in the share of GNP services market demands sophisticated approach to marketing because seller credibility is usually evaluated after the first sale is done. In fact marketing theory has a lot of gaps which refer to research methods of B2C relationships and identification of main consumer’s motivations for maintaining relationship with service providers. Among both marketing practitioners and academics there is growing interest in B2C relationships as a complex object of the research. This paper presents main results of 551 interviews conducted in 2003 with particular customers of retail banks, mobile telephony operators and travel agencies. They all were living in Silesia (Poland). The empirical data was used in multidimensional statistical analyses (factor analyses, regression analyses). The main objective of the research was to identify various dimensions of customers’ relationships with their principal financial institutions and to ascertain the factors that contribute to strength of relationship - which is likely to support customer retention - referrals, and long-term profitability. The empirical study was also aimed at designing research methods and measures for particular features of B2C relationships. The research findings suggest that customers’ motivations for maintaining relationship with service providers are complex, inter-related and different in particular service sectors. Within all analysed sectors there is a strong positive relationship between 2 variables: relationship strength and customer satisfaction. This result justifies the thesis that customer satisfaction is the most important for relationship development among relationship features. It is also discovered that interpersonal abilities and professional knowledge of salespeople are the main determinant of customer satisfaction. The regression model also points at variables that have negative influence on relationship strength. Importance of these variables is diverse in particular service sectors, but generally they include customers evaluation of other providers’ offers, sense of pressure to stay within relationship and monetary value of purchases. The research findings can be treated as a suggestion for managers from service companies that, if they want to develop meaningful customer relationships, they should concentrate more on rendering services at an expected (promised) level than on establishing formal barriers that prevent customers from defection. Companies’ websites, mailing campaigns, call centers or computer systems - so called CRM - should be treated by managers as instruments which make it easier for their companies to operate at a large scale. They are not marketing panacea. To become successful in relationship marketing a service company should be rather human than technology oriented. Although an emotional value for customers is more difficult to create, it seems that it is also more difficult to imitate, and therefore, lasting. Although emotional value for customers is more difficult to create, it seems that it is also more difficult to imitate, and therefore, it is lasting.
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Citation
Mitrega, M. (2006). Building strong relationships between services' providers and consumers: Evidence from Poland. Transformations in Business & Economics
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