The term customer intimacy has been used both in academia and business, albeit lacking clear definition and empirical validation. The authors in this paper aim to develop a measure of customer intimacy in business‐to‐business contexts and to assess its reliability and validity, as well as its relevance, within a nomological relationship marketing network.
A multi‐method (qualitative/exploratory and quantitative/confirmatory structural modelling), multi‐staged (test, re‐test) research approach is used and applied in the UK and Germany.
The results show that customer intimacy is a second order construct reflected by the three formative dimensions of mutual understanding, closeness, and value perception. The results also show that customer intimacy is a relevant relationship indicator, distinct from the central relationship indicators of trust and commitment. It impacts relationship commitment levels, customer induced word‐of‐mouth, repurchase intentions, information disclosure, customer availability, and leads to an advisor status with the customer. Moreover, customer intimacy mediates relationship marketing's central trust commitment link.
The main limitations that should be addressed by future studies are: reliance on the key informant technique on one side of the supplier‐buyer dyad; cross‐sectional design.
This study shows that achieving and managing customer intimacy is a relevant managerial goal and task for firms and shows managers how it can be measured and managed.
This study, for the first time, presents a measure for customer intimacy and assesses its quality and impact empirically. The measure will be of significant value in making customer‐centric, relationship management approaches more accountable.
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