Commitment in Marketing Research Services: Two Alternative models/Isipareigojimai Atliekant Rinkodaros Tyrimus: Du Alternatyves Modeliai

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Customers and customer relationships are perceived as the most important assets of business firms, closely related to long-term succes in the market (Korsakiene 2009). As a result, relationship commitment has been found to be the key component of establishing and maintaining long-term relationships between business partners (Dwyer et al. 1987; Morgan, Hunt 1994; Gundlach et al. 1995; Geyskens et al. 1996). Most researchers have studied commitment as a singular construct that measures the intention to continue the relationship; however, there have been some attempts to transfer findings from organizational psychology and study commitment as consisting of two or more components, namely affective, (positive and negative) calculative, and normative commitment (de Ruyter, Semeijn 2002; Sharma et al. 2006; Rauyruen, Miller 2007; Cater, Zabkar 2009). Such operationalization of commitment should contribute to enhancing the sensitivity of our research instruments and consequently to our understanding of the associations identified between the components of commitment, structural and social bonding mechanisms and outcomes (Kelly 2004). Past studies on commitment have primarily focused on affective and calculative commitment and generally not incorporated normative commitment in their analysis (with some exceptions, e.g., Bansal et al. 2004; Cater, Zabkar 2009; de Ruyter, Semeijn 2002; Kumar et al. 1994). If, on one hand, the literature addresses relatively well the link between the components of commitment, albeit rarely all of them simultaneously, and customer loyalty, limited evidence is available of how these components of commitment depend on other relationship characteristics. Therefore, there is a need for more research on distinguishing the different components of commitment and studying the links between the components of commitment and the variables representing the determinants (and consequences) of these components (Bansal et al. 2004; Sharma et al. 2006). Therefore, a contribution of this paper lies in the development and testing of a model that includes three components of commitment in a professional business services sector.

Since the mid-1970s, a variety of theoretical perspectives has been advanced to provide an understanding of marketing relationships and their components. The focus on relationships emerged from different marketing contexts and was developed within diverse research traditions (O'Malley et al. 2008; Pels et al. 2009). Marketing relationships in professional services have been studied according to two broad approaches: the Relationship Marketing (RM) approach and the Industrial Marketing and Purchasing (IMP) approach. The main differences between these two approaches are explained later in the paper. The purpose of this study is to add to the body of knowledge on client commitment in the professional service sector in business-to-business markets by developing, testing and comparing two alternative models of commitment between marketing research firms and their clients, with the first being based on the RM approach and the second on the IMP approach. We propose that actor bonds (as the focus of RM models) play an important role in explaining commitment but are not enough to paint a complete picture. For that, we also need activity links and resource ties. The contribution of this paper over previous studies of commitment is that it compares the two models in the same data-set, thus enabling a direct comparison of the explanatory power of the two alternative lines of research. We are well aware that comparing RM and IMP approaches may be problematic because they differ from the philosophy of research point of view (Easton 1995). RM researchers rely more on quantitative studies, while IMP researchers mostly use case studies. To ensure comparability of the influence of constructs that are used in both approaches on relationship commitment, this study uses structural equation modeling as the main research approach. …