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The complexity of relationship marketing for service customers

Tony Ward (Faculty of Business and Law, Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, Australia)
Tracey S. Dagger (UQ Business School, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 10 July 2007




There are a number of assumptions inherent in relationship marketing, including claims that a relationship should be developed with all customers in all situations. This paper seeks to show that marketers should not automatically use relationship marketing techniques for all products and for all customers.


This paper reports the results of an empirical survey of 287 consumers for five service products in which consumers were asked to assess the strength of the relationship between themselves and their supplier.


Relationship strength was found to vary significantly between service products and individual customers, and the impact of duration of the relationship and the frequency of purchase on relationship strength depends greatly on the nature of the service product. It was also demonstrated that some customers want a closer relationship with service providers than other customers, and this aspect significantly affects the strength of relationship perceived by the customer.

Practical implications

This paper clearly shows that the use of relationship marketing techniques for service products needs to be much more thoroughly researched to provide guidance for practitioners and marketing theorists. The complexity of the “relationship” construct in marketing is clearly shown and there is as yet no known set of “rules” that indicate when relationship marketing techniques should, or should not, be used.


The contribution of this paper is to empirically demonstrate that not all customers want to develop relationships with all service suppliers.



Ward, T. and Dagger, T.S. (2007), "The complexity of relationship marketing for service customers", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 281-290.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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