Relationship strength in service industries: a measurement model

Guicheng Shi
Macau University of Science and Technology

Yi-zheng Shi and Allan K. K. Chan
Hong Kong Baptist University

Yonggui Wang
University of International Business and Economics

INTRODUCTION

Relationship marketing is becoming increasingly important as marketing changes from being transaction to relationship orientated (Sheth & Parvatiyar 2002). Grönroos (1991) has even redefined marketing in relationship terms. He states that the function of marketing is 'to establish, maintain, and enhance relationships with customers and other parties at a profit so that the objectives of the parties involved are met'. Most researchers agree that building strong customer relationships is one of the main objectives of relationship marketing (e.g. Kim & Frazier 1997; Sheth & Parvatiyar 2002). The services literature emphasises the importance of having good long-term relationships with customers (e.g. Parasuraman et al. 1985; Crosby & Stephens 1987; Crosby et al. 1990). Relationship strength is a construct that is intended to describe the properties of the customer relationship. This paper defines relationship strength as the extent to which the partners are bound in a relationship, and the ability of the relationship to resist both internal and external challenges. In the early literature on relationship marketing, there is no such construct. Customer satisfaction and commitment are the two constructs that are applied to describe the properties of the customer relationship. Although these constructs capture the idea of a strong relationship, they are insufficient to fully describe the relationship. Donaldson and O'Toole (2000) introduced the construct of relationship strength to the relationship marketing literature. Although there have been studies of the construct, important research questions have not been investigated. For example, why should we use the new relationship strength construct? What is the meaning (i.e. the definition and dimensionality) of relationship strength? How do we measure relationship strength? This study aims to address these questions.