Interpersonal relationships can be a key success factor in many service businesses. A capable disc jockey, for example, may help a radio station in improving customer satisfaction. But does he/she help in building customer loyalty too? What happens if this employee leaves the organisation? The purpose of this paper is to assess the overall net effect that customer satisfaction with a key service employee may have on customer loyalty to a service firm.
The radio industry is selected as a specific case where a key service employee exists. A conceptual model is developed and tested on a sample of radio listeners using structural equation modelling.
The results confirm that customer satisfaction with a disc jockey increases personal loyalty to this employee. That outcome, in turn, cancels out part of the positive effects on customer loyalty to the radio station.
The model is tested within a specific service industry and the findings are not generalisable to contexts whose underlying characteristics differ from that industry. The aim is to propose a frame for estimating the net effects of relational trade‐offs with a key service employee. More generally, the study contributes to increased knowledge on the topic of customers' multiple levels of relationships.
When designing a value proposition in service industries where a key employee exists, it becomes especially important to add value elements and satisfaction drivers strictly referable to the firm and not to a specific person (e.g. image and reputation, behavioural consistency, overall experience, etc.).
The concept of “key service employee” is formally introduced and defined. A crossed design to weigh both direct and indirect relational outcomes is proposed. Loyalty to a key employee is explicitly measured as concurrent loyalty toward the firm.
Arbore, A., Guenzi, P. and Ordanini, A. (2009), "Loyalty building, relational trade‐offs and key service employees: the case of radio DJs", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 317-341. https://doi.org/10.1108/09564230910964417
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