How can trust and commitment be encouraged and nurtured?

Avoidance of opportunistic behavior

At various stages of the relationship there may be opportunities for either party of short-term gain by engaging in behavior which will harm the other. For example, a supplier may be tempted to increase prices as a result of short-term changes in the marketing environment. If this happens, trust may disappear.

Keeping of promises

Trust and commitment help reduce anxiety because of the belief that a trusted and committed partner will not jeopardize the relationship by knowingly breaking promises. This is an important factor for customers entering a long-term relationship with a producer. Through mutual dialogue and based on a realistic assessment, the supplier must promise only what can be delivered and deliver what has been promised. Sometimes it may be beneficial to decline an order.

The concept of satisfaction and efforts to keep promises and build trust between supplier and customer sit closely with the concept of ‘moments of truth’ in services marketing. According to Lovelock et al. (1999), from the customer’s point of view the most obvious evidence of the quality of service occurs when the customer interacts with the firm (the moment of truth). Negative customer experiences during moments of truth include lost customers, negative word of mouth and reduction in employee morale. During the moment of truth the life of the relationship between the supplier and customer is at stake.

Shared values

Shared values refer to: ‘the extent to which partners have beliefs in common about what behaviors, goals and policies are important or unimportant, appropriate or inappropriate, and right or wrong’ (Morgan and Hunt, 1994). The chances of a successful partnership and commitment to a long term relationship will be significantly reduced if the two parties do not share the same values. Disappointments and disagreement are bound to arise sooner or later.

Additional considerations

The role of trust and commitment in building successful long-term relationships with employees, intermediaries and other stakeholders must not be forgotten. RM programs aimed solely at external customers will be incomplete and have a reduced chance of success. Internal marketing and a belief in the value of a long-term relationship with customers and other stakeholders must be incorporated into the organizational culture.

Finally, trust and commitment have to be genuine and born of choice in order to be at their most effective in building long-term relationships. Some experts overemphasize the role of creating economic ties, or even proposes exit barriers to make exit too expensive or difficult for customers. Whilst RM is not a welfare exercise, the original advocates of RM in consumer markets – e.g. Berry, Gronroos and Gummesson – wrote from customer orientation platform and a genuine belief in the value of creating mutually beneficial relationships.

The systems approach

Customer loyalty cannot be won from a single sale or transaction, but rather from a series of satisfactory transactions over a period of time. This is perhaps the fundamental difference between RM and traditional target marketing. Whilst the latter focuses on the task of designing products in accordance with customer needs, it does not extend beyond the perspective of an isolated transaction. RM views the task of winning a customer as an ongoing process, developed gradually over a period of time. The implementation of the RM concept, therefore, focuses on systems rather than products. This has significant implications for the way that an organization is managed.