Customer-service provider relationship dissolution: The case of affinity marketing

Mekonnen, Aster (2012). Customer-service provider relationship dissolution: The case of affinity marketing. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis investigates the process of customer-service provider relationship dissolution in the context of affinity marketing, with special focus on the mediating role of affinity groups in the process. It does so through in-depth interviews, held in four regions of England, with participants who once held affinity credit cards affiliated to a charity or a professional work- related organisation. Holistic knowledge of a relationship, from conception to ending, has become important for developing and nurturing customer-service provider relations. Yet there is dearth of studies that focuses on the dissolution of relationships. The same is true for affinity marketing, a scheme which grew in popularity because of its promise to enhance a product's appeal and provide differentiation from rival offers by linking the product with a non-profit organisation. This research is motivated by the need for better understanding of affinity marketing, an area which has become more prominent in services marketing The research developed a conceptual framework that depicts six phases a customer-service provider relationship goes through, from conception to dissolution: i) triadic relationship (the partnership which forms affinity marketing); ii) trigger; iii) mediating variables; iv) evaluation; v) dissolution by type of customer; and vi) aftermath. This thesis found that the presumed relationship customers had with their affinity groups did not necessarily have a key role in the formation of the triadic relationship. However the relationship customers had with the affinity group through the affinity card was more prominent in the triad as well as in determining how the dissolution proceeded. Hence the findings challenge the emphasis given to affinity groups in establishing and maintaining relationships under affinity scheme. The functional, symbolic or supporting features of the affinity credit cards, led to three types of customers being identified: an explorer, a communicator and a supporter. Each type relates to distinct processes of dissolution. This research provides a deeper understanding of customers' perception of affinity marketing schemes. From the insight of the process of dissolution, it suggests techniques that can help to improve the design and management of the scheme, as well as prevent future dissolution.

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