Customer interactions with sellers change as social interactions in society change. The old dichotomy between transaction and relation exchange may no longer be valid as customers form relationships with sellers in new ways. It is against this background that the authors study how customers’ subjective perception of relational exchange appears in objectively defined transactional and relational exchange forms. The authors study one bank’s customers, and, based on objective bank records, the authors identify segments that behave as transactional and relational customers. The authors also identify a group of customers who are in between transactional and relational, and the authors call these interimistic relational, since they interact repeatedly with the bank in a short period of time. The paper aims to discuss these issues.
The authors study how subjective attributes of relational exchange differ in objectively defined transactional, interimistic, and relational customer groups. The authors use a large data set, consisting of a combination of survey and objective bank records for 90,528 bank customers.
Findings are that the old dichotomy between transaction and relation is no longer valid, since customers’ exchange behavior and perception of exchange do not match up when it comes to the transaction-relation dichotomy. The authors find empirical evidence for that the subjective relational attributes can be observed in objectively defined relational, interimistic, and transactional customer groups. Overall, subjective relational attributes are strongest in the objective relational group; they are weaker in the interimistic group. Relational attributes are weakest, but still present, in the transactional group.
The findings presented here suggest strong support for relationship marketing practice, since even customers who behave transactionally perceive that they have an element of relationship with the seller. The authors find that customers may behave in a relational, interimistic, and transactional way, but that they perceive themselves as more or less relational. The practical implication is that customer analysis should focus on exchange forms, and that it is essential to analyze how exchange changes, and how multiple exchange forms may be combined in customer behavior and perception.
The social implications of this paper are that marketers should consider the exchange between customer and financial service supplier as more or less of a relationship, and more or less of a service. Financial service firm strategies and regulation of financial services should acknowledge that no financial service transaction is independent of the relationship between the financial service provider and the customer. It may seem so objectively, but subjectively, it is not.
The authors present a unique comparison of objective and subjective customer exchange. There are two contributions that come from this research. The first is that customers perceive themselves as partially relational, even though they behave transactionally. The other contribution is that the authors identified interimistic relational exchange (IRE) as an exchange form in between relational and transactional. IRE can potentially be very important for market research and practice, as it captures modern market behavior. In today’s world, consumers form their perceptions in a multitude of ways, and may therefore have relational attitudes and transactional behaviors. More research is needed into how consumer perceptions and behaviors relate to each other, and how it impacts consumer purchase of financial services.
Eriksson, K. and Hermansson, C. (2017), "Do consumers subjectively perceive relationships in objectively defined relational, interimistic, and transactional exchange in financial services?", International Journal of Bank Marketing, Vol. 35 No. 3, pp. 472-494. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJBM-09-2016-0130
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