Making Sense of Customer Relationships: A Consumer Perspective

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Title: Making Sense of Customer Relationships: A Consumer Perspective
Author: Vuoristo, Lotta
Contributor: Svenska handelshögskolan, institutionen för marknadsföring, marknadsföring
Hanken School of Economics, Department of Marketing, Marketing
Belongs to series: Economics and Society – 316
ISSN: 0424-7256 (printed)
2242-699X (PDF)
ISBN: 978-952-232-350-7 (printed)
978-952-232-351-4 (PDF)
Abstract: This thesis focuses on customer relationships, a topical issue in contemporary marketing. Contrary to many earlier studies, this study approaches customer relationships from the consumer’s subjective point of view. This perspective is often overlooked in marketing. Yet in order to advance knowledge of customer relationships, an understanding of the subjectivity of motivations is essential. The discoveries are based on an in-depth study of consumers and their customer relationships. A novel combination of the grounded theory method and ethnomethodology was developed in order to conduct the analyses. The theoretical contribution of the thesis is presented in three steps. First, building on self-based theories, a map of multiple selves is constructed. Second, drawing on self-congruity theory, the self-relationship (S-R) congruence concept is introduced. This concept serves to explicate the complex ways in which customer relationships are connected to consumers’ lives and to clarify how subjective meanings and motivation emerge. Third, the thesis develops a process view of how consumers make sense of the many customer relationships they have. The research reveals that it is possible to be a customer, and to have a customer relationship, without being in a customer relationship. In other words, a customer relationship can be meaningful to a consumer without reciprocity. A customer relationship can even remain relevant to the consumer after the company no longer exists. These discoveries are inconsistent with what current customer relationship theories prescribe. Overall, the thesis illuminates several aspects of customer relationships that existing theories have thus far neglected. The conclusions not only contribute to theory development in the customer relationship field, but also have implications for companies that wish to improve relationships with their customers.
Date: 2017-10-17
Subject: consumer
customer relationship
map of multiple selves
self-relationship congruence

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