Understanding relationship marketing from the customer's perspective

  • Caroline S. Bibi

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy


In the middle of the nineties relationship marketing reached its hype as one of the main subjects of interest that occupied marketing researchers and practitioners alike. However, Palmatier et al. (2006) reported that relationship marketing is criticised of not fulfilling its claims and it is
observed that enthusiasm has shifted lately as suggested by Sheth (2002) to focus on customer relationship management (CRM), an IT-driven approach. This research attributes the situation to a number of reasons, mainly because relationship marketing from its emergence held many controversies and no common understanding as to what is meant by the term “relationship” within “relationship marketing” is developed. After two decades of research, still no agreement has been reached as Egan (2008) observed, while Palmer et al. (2005) identified the need to generate a researchable understanding of relationship marketing.

This research reviews the development of relationship marketing, its origins, schools of thought, approaches, research directions and key issues with the objective to develop an understanding of the meaning of relationships in the marketplace in general, and in the consumer markets in particular, taking the customer’s perspective. The aim is to gain more insights into the dynamics of relationships through identifying generic dimensions that characterise relationships and shape their typologies.

In order to achieve this, the research follows an interdisciplinary approach and uses constructs from the social sciences, looking beyond the confined interpersonal relationship metaphor used by many marketers. An empirical study was undertaken in the context of passenger air travel industry to determine the relational dimensions. The research confirmed the twelve dimensions found in the literature and a thirteenth dimension emerged. Though not all dimensions were found in all relationships, every relationship consisted of a bundle of dimensions. This supports the multifaceted construct of relationships in which no single relational dimension by itself
captures the in-depth meaning and characteristic of a relationship, contrary to many studies in which a selective approach is pursued to investigate relationship dimensions. The findings are used to develop a construct which integrates the relational levels and the identified dimensions of relationships from the customer's perspective in the holistic model.
Date of Award2009
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorGraham J Hooley (Supervisor)


  • Relationship Dimensions
  • Customer Relationships
  • Relational Exchange
  • Relational Levels
  • Dyadic Interaction

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