Academic journal article International Journal of Management

The Development of a Model of the Sales Agent's Role in Service Industries

Academic journal article International Journal of Management

The Development of a Model of the Sales Agent's Role in Service Industries

Article excerpt

Brand equity is used as a concept to explore the effects of sales agents and their importance in the service industry. This study integrates Aaker's Brand Equity (1996)and Keller's Brand Associations (1998) Models to develop an integrated branding model to explore influences on the role of sales agents in service industries. The model developed in this paper is tested and found to be generally accurate. Implications for marketing practice in the field are discussed.


Currently, many firms attempt to enhance direct customer-sales links in order to increase brand loyalty. However, this way of trying to strengthen brand loyalty can create a dilemma for managers who have often to 'decide' whether to be loyal to the company brand or to their salespeople who frequently want to deal with the customers directly themselves (Reynolds & Beatty 1999; Reynolds & Arnold 2000). From this starting point, the present study examines how companies manage their sales agents to strengthen their brand(s), and then explores the relationship among brand attitude, agent attitude, and brand loyalty as well as the antecedents of brand attitude and agent attitude. The study also examines the mutual influence that can exist between sales agents and corporate branding? Whereas most previous research has focused separately on sales agents or on corporate investment on brand loyalty (e.g., Renolds & Arnold 2000), in this study we considering sales agents and corporate investment and their reciprocal effects simultaneously to improve understanding of their effects on the development of positive consumer attitudes to brands. The insurance industry was chosen as the industry to be examined in this research, for two reasons. First, because the insurance industry is a relatively mature market, the concept of brand leadership appears more important than other concepts as means of improving marketing and sales. second, the trend of financial service towards greater diversification enables us to examine a greater variety of roles of sales agents and their effects on consumer brand attitudes.

Literature Review

In order to develop the framework, a number of relevant literature streams were reviewed. Of these the following are most important:

Customer-Based Brand equity

A positive brand image is created by marketing that succeeds in creating strong links between favorable and distinct associations of the brand in the minds of consumers. Keller (1998) emphasized what consumers need and want in his study of case of brand awareness. In his study, Keller classified these associations into three major categories of increasing scope, those of attributes, benefits, and attitudes. Attributes are those descriptive features that characterize a product or service (Keller 1998), these can either be product-related attributes or nonproduct-related attributes. Modifying or altering product-related attributes in various ways can change consumer attitudes toward the relevant product (Cherenev 2001 ), which can, in turn, and change their actual behaviors (Pritchard & Howard 1997; Maxham 2001). WuIf (2001), provides it evidence about the perceived quality of non-product-related attributes that can indirectly lead to more positive attitude and greater loyalty on the part of consumers towards the relevant service. Benefits can also be further distinguished into three categories: functional benefits, symbolic benefits, and experiential benefits. Functional benefits are the more intrinsic advantages of product or service consumption and usually correspond to product-related attributes. Symbolic benefits relate to underlying needs for social approval or personal expression and outer-directed self-esteem. Experiential benefits relate to what it feels like to use the product or service and correspond to both product-related attributes and nonproduct-related attributes such as usage imagery. (Keller 1998).

Consumers' brand attitudes generally depend on specific considerations concerning the attributes and benefits of the brand. …

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