Providing quality service is considered an essential strategy for success and survival in today's competitive environment (Dawkins and Reichheld, 1990; Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry, 1985; Reichheld and Sasser, 1990; Zeithaml, Parasuraman, and Berry, 1990). Therefore, the primary emphasis of both academic and managerial efforts is focused on determining what service quality means to customers; and developing strategies to meet customer expectations (Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry 1985, 1988). Besides, several retail markets have reached maturity, are over-stocked, and have difficulties differentiating themselves based on merchandise selection only (Berry and Gresham, 1986; Ghosh, 1994). Retailers more than ever are continually seeking out products, process, and technologies that increase customer value (Morgan and Hunt, 1994; Parasuraman et al., 1988; Woodruff 1997).
In general, marketing literature focuses on product and service efforts as drivers of total customer value. (Bolton and Drew, 1991; Frenzen and Davis, 1990; Gwinner et al., 1998; Hennig-Thurau and Klee, 1997). Attention has also been paid to the concept of "Relationship Marketing," (Barnes, 1997; Gwinner et al., 1998; Reynlods and Arnold, 2000) in addition to service quality in the current marketplace (Betty et al., 1996; Berry, 1995; Reynlods and Arnold 2000). Nevertheless, even though service quality and relationship marketing are popular topics, their intrinsic qualities are merely (what attributes bring forth) benefits needed by customers, further leading to customer satisfaction.
In service industry, research has shown that service quality enhancement and relationship marketing (Berry and Thompson, 1982; Day 1985; Moriarty et al., 1983) are appropriate strategies for commercial banks. And like in many other service businesses, the intangibility of the services in the banking sector highlights the importance of customer relationship management. Furthermore, the economic benefits associated with customer satisfaction are well grounded. Thus it has been shown (Sheth and Parvatiyar, 1995) that customers who have been with their bank for five years are much more profitable than those in the first year of their relationship. Further findings (Reichheld and Kenny, 1990) indicate that an average retail bank retains between 80 and 85 percent of its depositors, and that even a small improvement in this rate leads to higher margins. Therefore, longer customer relationships are worth more to the bank than new ones: more established customers have higher account balances, relatively lower account costs and are more likely to use other bank products and services.
This paper begins by discussing an apparent dichotomy among service quality attributes: the product-related and non-product-related split. It then proposes that customers will differ in the relative importance they place on these two types of service quality, and this will result in their having different perceptions of benefits from the same service.
The underlying concept of our paper is that if benefits relate to customer satisfaction, then evidence of its impact on customers' behavioral responses (i.e., trust/commitment, repurchase intention) along with attributes which bring forth these benefits should be detectable.
With that in mind, our objectives are four-fold:
1. To summarize existing evidence about the behavioral sequences of product-related and/or non-product-related attributes and benefits at the individual customer level.
2. To offer a conceptual model highlighting of the impact of attributes on benefits and particular behaviors that signal whether customers remain with or defect from the bank.
3. To conduct an empirical study examining relationships between product-related and/or non-product-related attributes, benefits and customer behavioral intentions (i.e., customer satisfaction, trust/ commitment and loyalty).
4. To suggest a research agenda whereby information about individual-level behavioral sequence of product-related and/or nonproduct- related attributes and benefits can be monitored and linked to customer satisfaction data to provide ongoing evidence of the impact of attributes and benefits on behavioral loyalty. …