The growing importance of RM has directed the attention of many marketing researchers to the concept of trust, which has long been of interest to several other disciplines including human resource management, communication and law. In the business-to-business sector, trust is considered to be an important requirement for a successful relationship. Business buyers do not change suppliers as often as do consumers, and prefer to find reliable suppliers on whom they can depend, i.e. trust, for delivering the right order, at the right time and in good condition. The growth in the use of such practices as just-in-time purchase management creates an anxiety that can only be alleviated by a trust in the relational partner and in their commitment to the success of the relationship. RM in consumer markets, particularly in services due to the intangibility of the product, relies on the same principles. ‘Effective services marketing depends on the management of trust because the customer typically must buy a service before experiencing it’ say Berry and Parasuraman (1991).
Additionally, RM requires investment in time and resources as well as emotional bonding and forsaking of others which can only be facilitated by mutual trust between the parties involved.
There is no universally agreed model of trust, nor an agreed definition. Moorman, Deshpande and Zaltman (1993) define trust as ‘a willingness to rely on an exchange partner in whom one has confidence’. This definition is an attempt to marry different definitions of trust which broadly either emphasize a psychological disposition toward a partner (confidence) or reliance on the partner.
The role of trust
The general view, however, is that trust and commitment are necessary attributes in a successful relationship. Morgan and Hunt (1994) identify trust and commitment as the key mediators in their model of RM. They argue that trust and commitment encourage marketers:
• To work at preserving relationship investments by cooperating with exchange partners,
• To resist attractive short-term alternatives in favor of the expected long-term benefits of staying with existing partners,
• To view potentially high risk actions as being prudent because of the belief that their partners will not act opportunistically.
That trust should be important in relational exchanges is understandable in terms of what has been suggested so far – the higher the degree of risk, anxiety and customer involvement the higher the need for relational exchange – i.e. reliance on and confidence in a trusted partner.
In a study of service industries, Gwinner et al. (1998) identify three main types of benefit which consumers expect from their relationship with a producer: confidence, social and special treatment. According to their findings, confidence benefits are received more and rated as more important than the other relational benefits by consumers. Confidence in the relational partner is an ingredient of trust, and signifies the role of trust in RM.
In discussions of trust integrity, honesty and credibility are often used either as components or drivers of trust. Other adjectives used are sincerity, consistency, information sharing and equality of power. Trust is also related to the concept of source credibility.