Building and maintaining strong customer relationships has been suggested as a means for gaining a competitive advantage. Despite this, few studies have examined the link between written communication and relationship perceptions. Yet understanding the establishment of this link is a necessary precursor for the development of concrete relationship management strategies. This paper aims to test the effectiveness of well‐known and cited written communication elements in enhancing relationship perceptions. The paper specifically seeks to identify which elements of written communication are relationally conducive by examining the impact of these elements on customers' perceptions of the relationship they have with their service provider.
The paper reports the results of an empirical survey of 422 distance education customers in which customers were asked to assess relationally conducive written communication elements and the importance of these elements on relationship development.
It was found that four components of written communication – message clarity, aesthetics, accuracy and physical features – were perceived by customers as relational cues that influence their relationship with the service organisation.
These findings are of value to service managers developing written communication that is conducive to relationship development. The contribution of the paper is that it empirically establishes a link between written communication and service relationships; an untested link that has been presumed in the literature. This basic empirical foundation is a necessary first step in the development of this research area.
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