Relationship facilitators: those factors that contribute to the development of the strong, long-term relationship. Quality, trust and satisfaction are all prerequisites of customer loyalty, and so serve as valuable measures of RM performance.
Relationship features: those factors that describe the nature of the relationship itself, as is evident in the behavior of the customer towards the supplier. These measures include various indicators of customer loyalty, fidelity and commitment.
Relationship returns: the monetary rewards accruing to the supplier from the relationship. The most satisfied, trusting and loyal customer, may not provide the best returns. Hence it is necessary to take various measures of the relationship’s financial performance.
It should be stressed that not all of them will be appropriate to all organizations, and that RM managers must be careful not to overload themselves with exhaustive monitoring data, or upset their customers with incessant requests for detailed feedback. In order to gain a balanced picture of relationship performance, however, one or two measures from each element should be taken.
Relationship facilitators: three levels of attitude monitoring
The monitoring process may focus on any one of three levels of customer attitude. The cognitive level deals with rational thoughts and judgements – the information that is known to the customer about the service provider. Here, the focus is on the measurement of service quality and costs, which is the customer’s rational judgement about the benefits received from the relationship, and the cost of maintaining it. The affective level deals with the customer’s emotions towards the supplier or product, measured through satisfaction. Finally, the conative level focuses on the customer’s actual behavior.
Monitoring the customer at all three levels of attitude is important, since it gives the supplier a holistic picture of the customer, and hence a sound basis for predicting future behavior. Generally, customers will seek to reduce inconsistencies between attitudes at the affective, cognitive or conative levels of attitude (known as dissonance). Heider (1946) found, for example, that a customer’s liking for a salesman would affect his attitude towards the products recommended by that salesman. Similarly, Festinger (1957) found that customers with strong attitudes towards a product or supplier engage in dissonance-reducing behavior, for example by actively ignoring information that conflicts with their established attitudes. At the same time, if a customer’s attitude at one level is changed, that customer is more likely to bring their attitudes at other levels into line with this new attitude. If, for example, a customer develops a liking for the salesperson of a competitor, he will look for rational arguments as to why they should switch to that supplier. Measurement at all three levels can provide an early warning system, indicating attitude changes before they result in disloyal behavior and the customer defects.