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Switching experience, customer satisfaction, and switching costs in the ICT industry

Kurt Matzler (Department of Strategic Management, Marketing and Tourism, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria)
Andreas Strobl (Department of Strategic Management and Marketing, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria)
Norbert Thurner (Department of Strategic Management and Marketing, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria)
Johann Füller (Department of Strategic Management and Marketing, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Article publication date: 16 March 2015

Abstract

Purpose

Stabilizing business in highly competitive and volatile business-to-business (B2B) markets is a strategic imperative for many companies. In such a context, customer retention through the creation of switching barriers (i.e. by increasing switching costs) is a common strategy. The purpose of this paper is to develop a network of relationships among customer switching experience, customer satisfaction, perceived switching costs, and behavioral loyalty intentions.

Design/methodology/approach

Survey data were collected from 327 business customers (very small enterprises with fewer than nine employees; customers included physicians, lawyers, tax advisors, consultants, civil engineers, etc.) of an information and communications technology (ICT) company. The research model was tested using partial least square structural equation modeling.

Findings

The results show that switching experience negatively influences customer satisfaction and behavioral loyalty intention. Furthermore, the influence of customer satisfaction on behavioral loyalty intentions is partially mediated by financial and relational switching costs.

Practical implications

In saturated markets, companies often try to grow by acquiring customers from competitors. This study reveals that this strategy can backfire. The customers that can be most easily acquired may be those that are the most difficult to retain because customers experienced in switching are difficult to satisfy – and low satisfaction means lower perceived financial and relational switching costs and, in turn, lower loyalty.

Originality/value

This research contributes to theory and practice by shedding further light on the satisfaction-loyalty link by investigating the often widely neglected role of switching experience. Furthermore, the study seeks to add to the discussion of how to specify the role of switching costs: as a mediator or as a moderator.

Keywords

Citation

Matzler, K., Strobl, A., Thurner, N. and Füller, J. (2015), "Switching experience, customer satisfaction, and switching costs in the ICT industry", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 26 No. 1, pp. 117-136. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOSM-04-2014-0101

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited