An empirical study of relationship quality in a service setting: a Chinese case

Zhen Xiong Chen (College of Business and Economics, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)
Yizheng Shi (Department of Marketing, Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon, People's Republic of China)
Da‐Hai Dong (Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China)

Marketing Intelligence & Planning

ISSN: 0263-4503

Publication date: 8 February 2008



The paper's aim is to investigate the antecedents and outcomes of the relationship between providers and consumers of a “high‐credence” service, in Hong Kong.


A model of antecedents and outcomes was constructed. Relationship quality was conceptualized as the degree of trust in and satisfaction with the service provider. Data collected in face‐to‐face interviews with over 200 clients of 12 health‐care clinics questionnaire survey were analyzed by confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation modelling, to test six hypotheses.


The findings support the hypotheses and show that the service providers' expertise, empathy, likeability, and communication effectiveness significantly influenced relationship quality, leading in turn to the likelihood of re‐patronage and word‐of‐mouth recommendation.

Research limitations/implications

The study suggests ways in which service providers can improve the quality of the customer relationship. Findings can be generalised only with caution, given the focus on health‐care delivery in a Chinese society. Future research could usefully investigate other high‐credence service sectors.


Empirical data have examined the association between four possible antecedents and relationship quality in a real‐world setting, and suggest practical actions for planners of customer relationship strategy in the high‐credence context.



Xiong Chen, Z., Shi, Y. and Dong, D. (2008), "An empirical study of relationship quality in a service setting: a Chinese case", Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 11-25.

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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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