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Paper info: The Impact of Satisfaction, Trust, and Relationship Value on Commitment: Theoretical Considerations and Empirical Results


The Impact of Satisfaction, Trust, and Relationship Value on Commitment: Theoretical Considerations and Empirical Results


Achim Walter, Gabriele Helfert and Thilo A. Mueller

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 16th IMP-conference in Bath, U.K in 2000.


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Commitment is as an essential ingredient for successful long-term relationships. Developinga customer's commitment in business relationships does pay off in increased profits, customerretention, willingness to refer and recommend. Relationship marketing literature suggestscustomer satisfaction and trust as major determinants of commitment. Recently, practitionersand scholars have identified customer value as a pivotal issue in the management of businessrelationships. In this article the authors theorize (1) customer satisfaction, (2) customer trust,(3) customer relationship value, and (4) customer commitment as key variables for successfulbusiness relationship management. A framework for the interrelationships of these keyvariables is provided. Drawing upon a database of 230 customer-supplier relationships, thisstudy shows that trust and relationship value are powerful predictors of commitment. Theinfluence of customer satisfaction on commitment is mediated by trust and relationship value.Some theoretical and managerial implications are given.At present researchers as well as practitioners report changes in the nature of industrialcustomer-supplier relationships. Customers and their suppliers tend to believe that long-termrelationships are a decisive source for competitive advantages (e.g. Kalwani & Narayandas1995, Ganesan 1994). The outcomes for the customer of such long-term orientation,Anderson and Weitz (1992) refer to it as commitment, are improved quality and processperformance as well as access to valued resources and technologies. Suppliers benefit fromlong-term customers through higher repeat sales and cross-selling opportunities as well asnew product ideas, information on competitive activities and products.There has been done considerable research in order to illuminate the correlation of socialaspects in business relationships such as commitment, satisfaction, long-term orientation,dependence and trust (e.g. Anderson & Narus 1990, Dwyer, Schurr & Oh 1987, Garbarino &Johnson 1999, Morgan & Hunt 1994). Recently, relationship value has become a matter ofinterest in relationship marketing (e.g. Ravald & Grönroos 1996, Lapierre 1998). Even so,researchers have not discussed the relationship value concept in the context with other socialaspects of business relationships so far.In this article we provide definitions of the four major theoretical constructs in a business-tobusinessrelationship context we used in our framework and study. Second, we present thetheoretical framework with hypotheses between customer commitment, trust, customersatisfaction and customer relationship value. Researchers have investigated the antecedents ofcommitment before, but we provide for the first time a framework including relationshipvalue in this context. For example, the study indicates that relationship value has pivotalinfluence on the development of an industrial customer's commitment towards a relationshipwith a supplier. Third, we explain method and outcomes of our empirical investigation.Relationship value is a rather new area of relationship marketing research. At the end of thisarticle we discuss limitations of our study as well as theoretical and managerial implicationsin this field.