Pleasantly Surprising Clients: A Tactic in Relationship Marketing for Building Competitive Advantage in the Financial Services Sector*

By Bergeron, Jasmin; Roy, Jasmin; Fallu, Jean-Mathieu | Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, September 2008 | Go to article overview

Pleasantly Surprising Clients: A Tactic in Relationship Marketing for Building Competitive Advantage in the Financial Services Sector*


Bergeron, Jasmin; Roy, Jasmin; Fallu, Jean-Mathieu, Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences


Abstract

The turbulent environment in which financial institutions evolve motivates strategic thinking aimed at competitive advantage. Drawing from the literature on relationship marketing, one potentially successful strategy at the level of front line service is for financial advisors to behave in a pleasantly surprising way toward their clients (e.g., acknowledging a family member's birthday; covering a parking expense; giving tickets to an entertainment venue). We examine both antecedents and consequences of clients' perceptions of their advisors behaving in a pleasantly surprising way toward them. Antecedents included advisors' customer orientation, knowledge of client, and sense of humour. Consequences included clients' trust, satisfaction, purchase intentions, and word-of-mouth intentions. Several strategic recommendations and research avenues following from these findings are offered.

Copyright © 2008 ASAC. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

JEL Classification: M31

Keywords: surprise, relationship marketing, bank, satisfaction, trust

Résumé

L'environnement turbulent dans lequel évoluent les institutions financières les pousse à rechercher des stratégies qui seront source d'avantages concurrentiels. Les recherches en marketing relationnel indiquent que l'une des stratégies qui a le potentiel de réussir au niveau du service d'accueil est celle qui consiste à réserver des surprises agréables aux clients (par exemple, mentionner l'anniversaire d'un membre de la famille du client, prendre en charge ses frais de stationnement, lui donner un coupon pour un spectacle). Les analyses de modélisation d'équations structurelles montrent, entre autres, que l'orientation client, la connaissance des clients et l'utilisation de l'humour influencent positivement le niveau de surprise du client. De plus, la surprise positive a notamment un impact significatif sur la confiance, la satisfaction, la propension à effectuer du bouche-àoreille positif et les intentions d'achat des clients. Plusieurs recommandations stratégiques et opportunités de recherche sont présentées. Copyright ? 2008 ASAC. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Mots clés : surprise, marketing relationnel, banque, satisfaction, confiance

For the past several years there has been but a single stable factor in the financial industry: change. Widespread advent of new technology and deregulation on a global scale have had (and will continue to have) the effect of increasing competition in the financial markets. At the same time, consumers of financial products have also evolved. They are better informed, more demanding, and most importantly, less likely to remain with the same provider than before. In this new market with its omnipresent (physical and virtual) competition, it becomes ever more difficult to stand out among one's competitors. In an industry where most products and prices are more or less the same (Paulin, Ferguson, & Payaud, 2000), companies may seek to distinguish themselves through adding a "human touch" (Bergeron, Ricard, & Perrien, 2003).

Many authors have emphasized the pressing need for research more focused on the phenomenon of "pleasant surprise" in business relationships (Derbaix & Vanhamme, 2003; Oliver, Rust, & Varki, 1997). However, even today surprise remains a subject that is not well researched. Vanhamme (2001) has explored the phenomenon of surprise related to a consumer experience, and concluded that pleasant surprise on the part of a customer has both a direct and an indirect positive effect on customer satisfaction. The results of her study also show that surprise is different and distinct from satisfaction because failure to achieve expectations is not necessarily associated with the emotion of surprise. In short, despite Vanhamme's findings (2001), it would seem that the study of surprise is still in its embryonic stages.

In practice, a plethora of anecdotal evidence demonstrates that the effect of surprise can generate substantial benefits, sometimes even in the long-term. …

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