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Journal of Services Marketing

The impact of customer relationship marketing on the firm performance: a Spanish case
Carmen Camarero Izquierdo Jesús Gutiérrez Cillán Sonia San Martín Gutiérrez
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Carmen Camarero Izquierdo Jesús Gutiérrez Cillán Sonia San Martín Gutiérrez, (2005),"The impact of customer relationship
marketing on the firm performance: a Spanish case", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 19 Iss 4 pp. 234 - 244
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The impact of customer relationship marketing
on the firm performance: a Spanish case
Carmen Camarero Izquierdo and Jesús Gutiérrez Cillán
Departamento de Economı́a y Administración de Empresas, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales, University of Valladolid,
Valladolid, Spain, and
Sonia San Martı́n Gutiérrez
Departamento de Economı́a y Administración de Empresas, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales, University of Burgos,
Burgos, Spain

Abstract
Purpose – While a vast number of studies have pointed out the keys of relationship marketing practices in consumer markets, little attention has been
paid to the value the organization can get from such strategies. The literature provides relatively little support for the effectiveness of relationship
marketing programs. The purpose of this research is to produce some evidence of the association between customer relationship marketing strategies
and the market and economic performance of the firm.
Design/methodology/approach – The proposed hypotheses are tested in the case of car repair and maintenance services, as a case where long-term
relationships are frequent. The hypotheses were evaluated using a path analysis, which associates relationship marketing activities with market
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performance (customers’ perceptions, market position and loyalty) and market performance with economic performance.
Findings – The findings suggest that the effect of attraction and loyalty programs is greater on market performance than on economic performance.
Furthermore, the results show that attracting customers through a good service quality and reaching a good position in the market have greater impact
on economic results than loyalty.
Practical implications – As a managerial implication, the authors suggest that service providers should put their efforts on improving quality rather
than on promotion, advertising or economic bonus to customers.
Originality/value – This article realizes the importance of product and service quality rather than promotions, advertising or economic bonuses in
retaining customer loyalty.

Keywords Relationship marketing, Services marketing, Customer loyalty, Spain

Paper type Research paper

An executive summary for managers and executive As Anderson (1995) reminds us, value creation and value
readers can be found at the end of this article. sharing can be regarded as the raison d’être of collaborative
relationships. The objective of the interaction between
suppliers and customers is to create and to share value.
Introduction Some authors suggest that value can only be obtained if
The findings of several studies on services marketing have customers are willing to engage in long-term relationships and
suggested that in order to acquire and maintain a competitive perceive them as valuable. Hence, they study relationships
edge, service organizations should develop long-term from the customer’s point of view and analyze how
relationships with their customers (Grönroos, 1991, 1994; relationship marketing helps to create value to costumers.
Berry, 1995). Firms have accepted that customer retention is However, the positive benefits of relationship marketing for
even more profitable than customer attraction and we can companies have not often been contested.
observe the interest of firms in adopting relationship It is evident that relationships are only appropriate when
marketing principles and designing strategies to develop they create higher value than transactional exchanges.
close and long-lasting relationships with the most profitable Therefore, we consider a priority to estimate what sort of
customers. A long-term orientation that puts the emphasis on results a firm can expect from attraction and loyalty programs
commitment to customers seems to be essential (Sheth and in order to decide the best use of marketing resources. In that
Parvatiyar, 1995; Richards, 1998). sense, several questions should be answered: “Can the
building of strong relationships between a firm and its
customers help the firm to increase customers’ loyalty and/or
The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at
commitment to the firm?”; “Do attraction and loyalty
www.emeraldinsight.com/researchregister
programs contribute to value creation?”; and “What sort of
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at value?”
www.emeraldinsight.com/0887-6045.htm In this context, the aim of this research is the analysis of
marketing activities and programs implemented in order to
establish, develop and maintain relationships with customers
Journal of Services Marketing and the impact these activities have on the firm performance.
19/4 (2005) 234– 244
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 0887-6045]
This paper will focus on assessing the effect relational
[DOI 10.1108/08876040510605262] activities have on market and economic performance.

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The impact of customer relationship marketing on the firm performance Journal of Services Marketing
Carmen Camarero Izquierdo et al. Volume 19 · Number 4 · 2005 · 234 –244

With this aim in view, the study is divided into three sections. decreased switching to non-program brands, increased
First of all, relationship marketing strategies, attraction and repeat-purchase rates, increased used frequency or greater
loyalty programs are described and the empirical evidence propensity to be exclusively loyal.
about the value to firms of such programs is reviewed. We 3 Interaction. The interaction manifests itself in activities
propose two types of value: market performance, which is such as contacting customers, answering adequately to
reflected in loyalty, market position (awareness and their complaints, enhancing personal and friendly
penetration) and positioning (customers’ perception about relations with them and customerizing services. Many
the service), and economic performance, which alludes to the companies perceive that the best initial approach toward
impact of relationship marketing on incomes, benefits and relationship marketing is investing in complaint handling
profitability. The second section explains the empirical study procedures to demonstrate commitment to customer (Tax
designed to assess the validity of the model and reports data et al., 1998). Satisfaction with complaint handling has a
analysis results. In view of the special characteristics of direct impact on trust and commitment and can override
customers-suppliers relationships in car repair and the initial negative experience if handled to the customer’s
maintenance services, we chose this sector as the source of satisfaction or delight.
data. The final section sets out the principal conclusions and
implications for theory and practice. Relationship value: empirical evidence
Value is considered to be an important constituent of
relationship marketing as the ability of a company to
Towards value creation in consumer-firm
provide superior value to its customers is regarded as one of
relationships the most successful competitive strategies in the 1990s. This
The process of developing customer-firm relationships starts ability has become a means of differentiation and finding a
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when the firm invests in activities directed towards attracting sustainable competitive advantage (Grönroos, 1994).
customers and positioning on the market. However, a greater Relationships value involves both the cost-benefit equation
effort is needed in order to turn these customers into loyal and the equity as perceived by each party (Szmigin and
ones. Hence, both attraction and loyalty programs are Bourne, 1998). According to several authors, in customer-
necessary in the process of creating customers-firm seller relationships, customers benefit in terms of higher
relationships that are valuable both to customers and the value, better quality and increased satisfaction with their
firm. Following this reasoning, this section analyses the purchases, while firms benefit from greater sales volumes,
content of attraction and loyalty programs and their effect on better operating efficiencies, positive word-of-mouth
the firm’s economic and market performance. publicity, improved customer feedback and decreased
marketing expenses (Buttle, 1996; Reichheld and Sasser,
Attraction and loyalty programs 1990; Vavra, 1995).
Since relationship marketing includes all activities directed The concept of value to customers has been largely
towards the establishment, development and maintenance of discussed. Ravald and Grönroos (1996) emphasize that a
exchange relationships (Morgan and Hunt, 1994), the successful way of providing value to customers might be to
activities of a relational strategy should comprise the next reduce the customer-perceived sacrifice by minimizing the
objectives: attraction (creating relationships); loyalty relationship costs for him. Other authors relate customer
(developing relationships); and interaction (maintaining retention and customer value to a general sense of satisfaction
relationships). According to these objectives, we can that the relationship has fulfilled his demands or increased his
distinguish three types of relationship marketing activities: profits (Eriksson and Löfmarck Vaghult, 2000; Henning-
those oriented to attract consumers; those oriented to retain Thurau and Klee, 1997; McDougall and Levesque, 2000).
customers and to create loyalty; and those oriented to Satisfaction acts as an antecedent of the customer’s perception
maintain the relationship: of the product or the service quality. Customers’ quality
1 Attraction of consumers. The main way to initiate perceptions leads to trust and commitment (relationship
relationships in consumer markets is to engender trust quality) and, finally, to customers’ retention. Also Anderson
and confidence (Morgan and Hunt, 1994). The firm can et al. (1994) demonstrate that return on investment (ROI) is
generate trust by means of signals sent to the market: strongly related to consumer’s satisfaction.
warranty, reputation, service quality (investments on As for value to firms, several streams of research have
quality and technology) or advertising and promotions focused on customer retention and its benefits to a selling
(San Martı́n et al., 2003). firm. Sheth and Parvatiyar (1995) state that relationship
2 Customer loyalty. As Buttle (1996) suggests, commitment marketing would lead to greater marketing productivity by
to customers and service quality enhance satisfaction, making it more effective and efficient. Reichheld and Sasser
which leads to close and successful relationships. If we (1990) also argue that customer retention has a link to a firm’s
admit that it is more profitable holding on to existing long-term profitability. Srivastava et al. (1999) affirm that
customers than winning new customers (Berry, 1995; customer relationship management process generates value to
Vavra, 1995), the firm will try to achieve the satisfaction of customers, which in turn creates shareholder value.
their existing customers providing them incentives such as According to these authors, relations with customers
discounts, free products or fidelity cards[1]. These loyalty contribute to the organization’s marketplace and economic
programs are structured marketing efforts, which reward, performance: customer relationship management processes
and therefore encourage, loyal behavior. Concretely, build more quickly product awareness, entire early product
Sharp and Sharp (1997) state that loyalty program trial and promote repeat purchases and higher customer
customers should show changes in repeat-purchase loyalty retention; each of these results supports acceleration and
which are not evident amongst non-program members: enhancement of cash-flows. Besides, Sheth and Sisodia

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The impact of customer relationship marketing on the firm performance Journal of Services Marketing
Carmen Camarero Izquierdo et al. Volume 19 · Number 4 · 2005 · 234 –244

(1995) recommend both quantitative and qualitative substantial, impact on shareholder value without affecting
measures of marketing output. Following these arguments, current revenue or market share levels.
we can propose that the value created by relationship According to the previous statements, we put forward the
marketing with customers is reflected in two aspects: market following hypotheses (Figure 1):
performance and economic performance. H1. Attraction activities have a positive effect on market
Market performance refers to: the improvement of the position (H1a) and on customers’ perceptions about
firm’s market position, that is, building product awareness the firm (H1b).
and penetration in the market; shaping customers’ H2a. Loyalty and interaction programs have a positive effect
perceptions of the organization and their products on customers’ perceptions about the firm (H2a) and
(Srivastava et al., 1999); and the rise in customer loyalty on customers’ loyalty (H2b).
and retention (Evans and Laskin, 1994): H3. Economic performance is enhanced directly by market
. Market position (either awareness or penetration), should performance – market position (H3a), customers’
be the first consequence of programs and activities perceptions (H3b) and loyalty (H3c) – and indirectly
addressed to attract customers; it could be considered as by relationship marketing activities.
consumers’ cognitive answer to the signals the firm sends
to the market. However, Sharp and Sharp (1997)
demonstrate that loyalty programs have no impact on
the market share. The result of loyalty programs would be Method
an increase in repeat-purchase loyalty without the Sample, data and measures
expected degree of increase in penetration. The empirical research focuses on services because the
.
Customers’ perception of the firm’s image represents
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interpersonal nature of services makes them particularly well


consumers’ affective answer to the firm’s marketing suited for relationship building (Berry, 1995). Certainly, a
activities. Attraction and loyalty programs can shape relationship with a service provider is particularly valuable to
customers perceptions about the firm or the service it the customer because it engenders the trust that is necessary
provides. If the customer has an image of friendly to ensure quality service and preserve the relationship and
relationship, personalized treatment or service quality, because many services require the interaction between
we could say that a certain loyalty program has had customers and service providers.
success. Otherwise, if the customer frequents a service The sector of car repair and maintenance services has been
provider only because of promotions, price reductions and chosen for different reasons. Owing to the economic risk and
advertising, attraction programs have been successful, but technical complexity of these services (high involvement),
loyalty programs probably have failed. customers usually establish close relationships only with one
. Finally, loyalty is the result of activities that look for garage for repairs. As it has been demonstrated, services with
interaction and customers’ repeat-purchase and implies a a high degree of professionalism and services where the
behavioral answer. Expectations of positive reinforcements customer has a high degree of personal involvement facilitate
induce relational behaviors. There is not unanimity about the conditions for relationship marketing (Pressey and
the effect of loyalty programs on loyalty. Szmigin and Mathews, 2000). Car repair is a credence-based service,
Bourne (1998) suggest that customers are, in the main, which is difficult for customers to evaluate and customer trust
promiscuous when it comes to relationships with firms. is believed to be particularly important (Singh and
Many customers do not really want a long-term approach Sirdeshmukh, 2000; Liljander and Roos, 2002).
and act out of self-interest, getting more for less. In Spain, there are three main types of garages. First, there
On the other hand, economic performance alludes to the are the manufacturer’s garages or authorised repair shops,
firm’s benefit, incomes and profitability that are related, which are principally used during the car warranty period or
directly and indirectly, to the firm’s relational strategy. until the car is approximately five years old (Liljander and
Attraction and loyalty programs should have direct effects Roos, 2002). Second, there are garages that belong to a
on economic performance. What is more, there is an indirect national or international chain (e.g. Feu Vert or Midas),
effect as far as market performance impacts directly on which have entered Spain with lower prices and wider
economic results. It has been demonstrated that it is far less
expensive to retain a customer than to acquire a new one Figure 1 Proposed model
(Reichheld and Sasser, 1990) and that the longer the
customer stays with a firm, the more profitable the
relationship is to the firm. In fact, a close and long-lasting
relationship with customers usually implies a reduction in
service costs (the firm becomes more knowledgeable about its
clients’ needs and thus able to provide better service at a lower
cost) and marketing costs (in that the firm needs to spend less
on convincing customers to repeat buying) and, in
consequence, an improvement in profitability (Reinartz and
Kumar, 2000; Sharp and Sharp, 1997: Sharma et al., 1999).
Sharp and Sharp (1997) add that loyalty gives something of a
guarantee of future earnings. If a loyalty program increases
the certainty of future income flows, through decreasing the
risk of losing customers, then it may have a real, and perhaps

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Carmen Camarero Izquierdo et al. Volume 19 · Number 4 · 2005 · 234 –244

opening hours than other garages. Third, there are traditional promotion and price reduction; and, lastly, personalized
garages, which usually have a little number of employees relationships as the value that customer gives to a friendly
(some of them are family-run ones) and are more specialised. relationship with employees, to personalized treatment and
Data were collected by a mail survey addressed to the 440 to confidence on employees.
garages of two Spanish regions. A questionnaire and a cover .
Market position. Market position was measured as a
letter explaining the purpose of the survey were mailed to “the composite index that gathers customers’ awareness of the
director/manager”. Previously, we carried out a qualitative garage and the rise in penetration (number of customers)
research that consisted of interviews with several automotive after the implementation of relationship marketing activities.
service users. We asked them what image they had about their .
Loyalty. The degree of customers’ loyalty was measured as
more frequented garage and which reasons they had to the percentage of loyal customers, the percentage of
frequent it and not others. The objective was to extract a list of incomes associated with loyal customers and the rise of
the main items that garages users value most. This information loyal customers after the implementation of relationship
helped us to elaborate the questionnaire we sent to the garages. marketing activities.
The final sample was composed of 87 firms. Although it .
Economic results. Economic outcomes were measured as the
seems a low sample, it represents nearly the 20 percent of the extent to which the relationship marketing activities impact
total number of garages. Moreover, we confirm that the most on incomes, benefits and profitability. We used a subjective
relevant garages were included, so that non-respondents were concept of business performance because respondents may
little-sized garages with a low market share. In order to test be reluctant to provide hard economic data.
non-response bias we compared respondents of the two
regions along all the responses items for each of the scales and Finally, we asked if the garage belonged to the manufacturer
no significant difference between the two groups was found. net and/or to a national or international chain. In the final
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The following step was to develop scales and variables to sample 44.4 percent of the garages belonged to the
measure the concepts proposed. A total of 42 items were manufacturer net, 40.5 percent belonged to a national or
developed and respondents were asked to use five-point Likert international chain. In addition, we asked the number of
scales in order to show the degree of agreement with each employees in order to have a measure of the garage size. Those
statement (being 1 ¼ completely disagree with the item and with more than seven employees (the biggest garage had 36
5 ¼ completely disagree with the item): employees) were considered big size garages. In this way, 26.6
.
Attraction programs. As activities primarily focused on percent of respondents were classified as big garages.
attracting and winning new customers, we proposed seven Table I reports descriptive statistics and reliability
items that were submitted to a factor analysis in order to coefficients for the scales used in the study.
identify feasible dimensions. This information allowed us
to construct two variables. The first variable (quality of the Analyses and results
service) refers to a high service quality, repair warranties, Data analysis was developed in two phases. First, as a
an advanced technology and a great reputation. The preliminary and exploratory analysis, we tried to relate
second (commercial activities) includes activities such as relationship marketing activities to garages’ characteristics.
broad business hours, a professional layout, advertising Our aim was to know if garages that belong to the
and promotions. manufacturer net, to a national or international chain and
.
Loyalty and interaction programs. As activities referring to the garage size, differ in the way they put relationship
holding back to existing customers we proposed thirteen marketing into practice.
items that were reduced to four variables (following the Analysis of variance (ANOVA) carried out demonstrate
previous process). The first variable (bonus) includes the some significant effects. Results reveal that manufacturer net
offer of price reductions, gifts or free services to existing garages attract new customers through service quality and
customers; the second one (customer satisfaction) have more tendency to create loyalty by means of bonus to
comprises to the effort to fit to deadline and to budgets existing customers, contact with clients and customers’
and getting a satisfied customer: the third one (complaints) satisfaction. The fact of being part of a national or
highlights the effort to answer and avoid customer’s international chain is related to the practice of commercial
complaints; finally, the last variable (contact with activities (advertising and promotion) in order to attract new
customers) includes the activities of contacting customers customers and also to a stronger emphasis on service quality.
in order to remind them of future repairs, verifying if they Moreover, a big size is connected with a greater effort on
are satisfied or why they do not attend the garage yet. service quality, on commercial activities and on having regular
.
Customers’ perceptions. As far as we could not collected contact with customers.
information from customers and in order to measure Second, we tested the impact of relationship marketing
customers’ perceptions about the garage, we asked directly activities on market and economic performance. The
to garages’ managers what were the main reasons for proposed hypotheses were evaluated using a path analysis
customers to choose their shops (which items do your and data was processed with LISREL 8. In the path analysis
clients value most?). The 14 items proposed (also based on we associated relationship marketing activities with market
information provided by garages’ users) were reduced to performance (customers’ perceptions, market position and
four variables: expert image, which refers to the perception loyalty) and market performance with economic performance,
of good reputation, workers’ skills and the quality of the taking into account the different marketing activities
service; convenience image, which comprises the proximity previously identified and the different customers’ perceptions.
to the customer, having flexi-time and achieving the repair Table II shows the overall fit statistics for the structural model
quickly; promotional image, that alludes to the perception estimation as well as the path coefficients. The paths among latent
of a garage that carries out activities of advertising, variables in the resulting model are summarized in Figure 2.

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The impact of customer relationship marketing on the firm performance Journal of Services Marketing
Carmen Camarero Izquierdo et al. Volume 19 · Number 4 · 2005 · 234 –244

Table I
Cronbach’s Average variance
Scales Items Mean Std. error alpha extracted

Quality of the service The garage offers a good repair warranty 4.86 0.37 0.50 0.46
The garage has a good reputation in the market 4.36 0.67
The garage is specially concerned about offering high service quality 4.77 0.47
The garage has advanced technology 3.90 0.87
Commercial activities The garage advertises and makes promotions frequently 2.96 1.38 0.53 0.46
The garage has a professional layout 4.25 0.83
The garage offers broad business hours 4.41 0.79
Bonus The garage offers price reductions to existing customers 2.81 1.51 0.67 0.51
The garage offers free services to existing customers 2.78 1.37
The garage offers gifts to existing customers 2.96 1.56
The garage offers a fidelity card to existing customers 1.49 1.04
Personal contact The garage contacts customers to remind them of future repairs 3.08 1.63 0.68 0.61
The garage contacts customers to verify if they are satisfied 2.72 1.50
The garage contacts customers to find out why they do not still
patronize the garage 2.38 1.44
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Satisfaction The garage is concerned about having a satisfied customer 4.91 0.31 0.63 0.60
The garage makes an effort to meet deadlines in order to satisfy
customers 4.65 0.59
The garage meets budgets 4.44 0.78
Customers’ complaints are handled personally by those responsible for
Complaints the repair 4.65 0.84 0.52 0.52
The garage is concerned about answering customer complaints 4.77 0.47
The garage undertakes corrective actions to avoid situations that have
originated complaints 4.39 1.03
Expert image High reputation of the garage 4.56 0.61 0.79 0.60
Workers’ skills 4.45 0.72
Service quality 4.67 0.52
Repair warranty 4.56 0.65
Convenience image Proximity 3.67 1.22 0.63 0.49
Flexi-time (broad business hours) 4.18 0.99
Quick repair 4.39 0.73
Variety of services 4.32 0.81
Promotional image Advertising 2.39 1.20 0.65 0.59
Promotions and price reductions 2.47 1.31
Gifts to customers 3.51 1.26
Personalized relationship Friendly relationship with employees 4.03 0.95 0.57 0.60
Personalized treatment 4.58 0.60
Confidence in employees 4.67 0.61
After the implementation of attraction and loyalty programs the garage
Market position is more known than others 3.47 0.96 0.68 0.76
After the implementation of attraction and loyalty programs the number
of customers has increased 3.50 0.89
Loyalty Percentage of loyal customers 3.64a 0.83 0.69 0.65
Percentage of incomes associated with loyal customers 3.66 a 0.92
Rise in loyal customers after the implementation of attraction and
loyalty programs 3.75 1.06
Degree to which the activities of relationship marketing have impacted
Outcomes on incomes 3.37 0.96 0.79 0.72
Degree to which the activities of relationship marketing have impacted
on benefits 3.35 0.99
Degree to which the activities of relationship marketing have impacted
on profitability 3.19 0.99
a
Note: These items were measured by five categories: (1) from 0 to 20 percent; (2) from 21 to 40 percent; (3) from 41 to 60 percent; (4) from 61 to 80 percent;
(5) from 81 to 100 percent. These categories were turned into a five-point scale, so that it could be treated as numerical variables

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Table II Structural relationships and model fit


Carmen Camarero Izquierdo et al.

Expert image Convenience image Promotional image Personalized relationship Market position Loyalty Economic outcomes
Quality 0.461 – – – 0.305 – –
Commercial practices – 0.565 0.526 – (No support) – –
Bonus 2 0.340 – 0.414 – – (No support) –
Satisfaction – 0.454 – 0.340 – (No support) –
Complaints 0.540 – – 0.715 – (No support) –
The impact of customer relationship marketing on the firm performance

Contact 0.255 20.402 – – 0.298 0.502 –


Convenience image 0.510 –

239
Promotional image 2 0.412 –
Market position – 0.841
Loyalty – 0.303
R2 0.712 0.682 0.685 0.830 0.220 0.272 0.880
x2 at 45 df 54.699 GFI 0.915 RMSEA 0.050
p value 0.152 AGFI 0.829 CFI 0.963
n 87
Notes:  p , 0:10;  p , 0:05
Journal of Services Marketing
Volume 19 · Number 4 · 2005 · 234 –244
The impact of customer relationship marketing on the firm performance Journal of Services Marketing
Carmen Camarero Izquierdo et al. Volume 19 · Number 4 · 2005 · 234 –244

Figure 2 Final model


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LISREL also allows us to estimate indirect and total effects in image; answering complaints creates an image of expert
complex causal patterns. Table III shows up indirect and total and, less significantly, an image of personal relationships;
effects of attraction and loyalty activities on loyalty and contacting customers has a positive effect on expert image and
economic outcomes. a negative influence on convenience image; finally, the offer of
As we can observe, H1a is partially supported. Attraction bonus to existing customers provokes a perception of a garage
activities that are based on the offer of a high service quality that offers frequent promotions and, although it is less
enhance the garage’s market position (awareness and significant, it is negatively associated with the expert image.
penetration), whereas commercial activities do not seem to In contrast, loyalty and interaction activities have little
have any significant effect on it. Moreover, contacting impact on loyalty, that is, the number of loyal customers and
customers (interaction) has a positive influence on market incomes associated with loyal customers (H2b). Only the
position, although the global effect is really low. Besides, both strategies that look for contact with customers are related to
activities based on service quality and activities based on the loyalty achieved. However, we have found that positioning
commercial attraction affect the perception customers have of affects loyalty. A convenience image (flexi-time, quick repair)
the garage (H1b). The offer of high service quality creates an implies greater loyalty, whereas, to a small extent, a
expert image, while the offer of other shopping facilities promotional image reduces customers’ loyalty. Therefore,
contributes to a convenience image and to a perception of a we can observe an indirect effect of customers’ satisfaction
garage that makes promotions. and bonus on loyalty through positioning. Achieving
Regarding H2a, the effects of loyalty and interaction customers’ satisfaction has a positive influence on loyalty in
activities on customers’ perceptions are significant. Activities so far as it strengthens the convenience image convenience.
to achieve customers’ satisfaction are related to an image of On the other hand, bonus creates a promotional image, which
personalized relationships, but mainly to a convenience is negatively associated with loyalty. Nevertheless, we have not

Table III Indirect and total effects of attraction and loyalty activities on loyalty and economic outcomes
Indirect effects Total effects
Loyalty Economic outcomes Loyalty Economic outcomes
Quality – 0.256 – 0.256
Commercial practices 0.072 0.022 0.072 0.022
Bonus 20.170 20.052 2 0.170 20.052
Satisfaction 0.231 0.070 0.231 0.070
Complaints – – – –
Contact 20.205 0.341 0.298 0.341
Convenience image 0.155 – 0.510 0.155
Promotional image 20.125 – 2 0.412 20.125
Market position – – – 0.841
Loyalty – – – 0.303
Notes:  p , 0:10;  p , 0:05

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Carmen Camarero Izquierdo et al. Volume 19 · Number 4 · 2005 · 234 –244

been able to really explain the determinant factors of loyalty, programs have a weak impact on loyalty. Curiously, in case a
since the R2 value is very low. As Eriksson and Mattsson promotional image affects loyalty, it does it with a negative
(2002) state, the low R2 value may indicate a weak linearity in influence, whereas convenience establishments seem to
relations. Current research in structural equation modeling achieve a greater degree of loyalty.
aims to develop curve-linear modeling techniques, that may These results are consistent with some previous research.
better suit the real pattern of variation in data. For instance, Sin et al. (2002) analyze the impact of
Finally, H3 can be supported. Economic performance is relationship marketing orientation on business performance
principally explained by market position (H3a), but also by in a service context. Although their findings indicate that the
loyalty (H3b). Besides, we have found an indirect influence of firm’s degree of relationship marketing orientation is
relationship marketing activities and the customer’s positively associated with sales growth, customer retention,
perceptions on economic performance (H3c). The offer of ROI, sales growth and overall performance, they also obtain a
high service quality and contact with customers has an low level of explanation.
indirect and positive effect on outcomes. In addition, the fact Our study provides a number of managerial implications.
of being a convenience garage is positively and slightly related Although the analysis focuses on the sector of car repair and
to economic outcomes. maintenance services, our results also have implications to
other services that show similar characteristics, such as high
Discussion and implications involvement, high degree of professionalism and being a
credence-based service. Some examples are travel agencies,
Recently, Sheth (2002) posed a question that could change medical services and other professional services.
the course of relationship marketing: “Does relationship Existing literature on marketing relationships has pointed
marketing pay?”. The empirical evidence is inconclusive out that retaining customers is more profitable than attracting
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despite our confidence in lifetime value of the customer. In new ones. Although we cannot be conclusive about that, our
the present study, we sought to make a contribution to the findings suggest that attracting customers through a good
investigation of relationship marketing programs in terms of service quality and reaching a good position in the market
performance. have greater impact on economic results than loyalty. Service
Our research supports a positive influence of service quality providers should put their efforts on improving quality rather
on awareness and penetration and an indirect effect of contact than on promotion, advertising or economic bonus to
with customers and customer satisfaction on customers’ customers.
loyalty. Results suggest, however, that commercial practices Notwithstanding these results, the positive effect of loyalty
(promotions, advertising) do not have a great impact on on outcomes has been verified. Hence, service providers have
attraction or awareness. In the same way, bonus to existing to prioritize suitable actions to get loyal customers. We
customers (reduction in prices, fidelity cards or free services) suggest that contact with customers seems to be the best way
does not contribute to retain customers, but, indirectly, it of retaining profitable customers. We may add concern about
implies a reduction in loyalty. We have to note, however, that customer’s satisfaction and complaints as necessary actions
these activities are not frequent in car repair services. for the service to be perceived as one that allows the
According to our results, attraction and loyalty programs development of personal relationships with customers.
may also affect the image the garage shows up. We have However, customer loyalty behavior continues to be a black
identified four different perceptions of a garage and their hole. Our results show that convenience establishments (those
respective antecedents. First, service quality, concern about that offer proximity, broad business hours and a quick repair)
complaints and, less strongly, contact with customers create achieve greater loyalty than those more concerned about
an image of an expert garage. Besides, it can be note a certain loyalty programs. As several authors have insisted,
negative influence of the bonus given to existing customers on relationship marketing presents considerable barriers in
the firm’s expert image. Second, commercial practices and consumer markets. Loyalty is difficult to achieve. Many
concern about customers’ satisfaction provoke an image of a customers do not really want a long-term approach, but good
convenience service, whereas contact with customers has a service and convenience.
negative relation to convenience garages. Third, commercial Nevertheless, relationships value will be dependent on the
practices and bonus to existing customers create an image of a nature of the service, the nature of the consumer and the
promotional establishment. Fourth, although less clear than nature of the situation. Rich (2000) observes that the process
previous effects, the firm’s concern about customer’s of establishing relationships that have meaningful sales results
satisfaction and complaints engender an image of will require that individuals in both the buying and selling
personalized relationships with the garage. organizations desire such relationships. Only when that
A more important contribution of this study derives from linkage is sought will the efforts of the selling organization
the findings concerning how loyalty and market position affect bear results in terms of economic rewards.
economic outcomes. The greater impact on economic
performance derives from the market performance, whereas Limitations and directions for future research
loyalty has a moderated influence on economic results. The Some limitations of this study should be noted. First, data
indirect effect of relationship marketing activities on economic were obtained from the managers’ point of view and we have
performance is not so clear. Only service quality and contact not taken into account the customers’ perspective. Second,
with customers, and to a small extent, affect results. Thus, we we have focused only on a service sector and we have only
can conclude that awareness in the market and market share considered Spanish car repair services. It would be useful to
are much more related to economic performance than loyalty. obtain a broader sampling frame. Therefore, future research
Moreover, we have found difficulties to explain the real will seek to generalize the model developed in this study to
reasons of customer loyalty. As results have proved, loyalty other services. Third, cross-sectional data were used,

241
The impact of customer relationship marketing on the firm performance Journal of Services Marketing
Carmen Camarero Izquierdo et al. Volume 19 · Number 4 · 2005 · 234 –244

consequently, the time sequence of relationship marketing Eriksson, K. and Mattsson, J. (2002), “Managers’ perception
activities, market performance and economic performance of relationship management in heterogeneous markets”,
cannot be determined unambiguously. Longitudinal data Industrial-Marketing-Management, Vol. 31 No. 6, September,
would provide more insight into probable causation. In that pp. 535-43.
sense, Hogan (2001) proposes a methodology for measuring Evans, J.R. and Laskin, R.L. (1994), “The relationship
expected relationship value using a Monte-Carlo simulation marketing process: a conceptualization and application”,
to measure expected relationship value as a probability Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 23, pp. 439-52.
distribution of the net present value of current and future Grönroos, C. (1991), “The marketing strategy continuum:
relationships outcomes. It could be used an experimental toward a marketing concept”, Services Marketing
design for measuring relationships value before and after Management Decision, Vol. 29, pp. 7-13.
loyalty program launch. Fourth, we also need a better Grönroos, C. (1994), “From marketing mix to relationship
measure of relationship value. Business performance is a marketing: toward a paradigm shift in marketing”,
multidimensional construct, so we have to explore the impact Management Decision, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 4-32.
of loyalty on other dimensions of business performance, such Henning-Thurau, T. and Klee, A. (1997), “The impact of
as costs and potential and actual profits. Fifth, we have customer satisfaction and relationship quality on customer
obtained a low level of significance for some relationships. retention: a critical reassessment and model development”,
Further research should contribute to support them better. In Psychology and Marketing, Vol. 14 No. 8, pp. 737-64.
addition, the reliability of some measurement scales should Hogan, J.E. (2001), “Expected relationship value”, Industrial
improve. Finally, we echo the opinion of Sheth (2002) Marketing Management, Vol. 30, pp. 339-51.
regarding the usual outsourcing of customers by many Liljander, V. and Roos, I. (2002), “Customer-relationship
companies. He proposes to develop hypotheses of levels – from spurious to true relationships”, Journal of
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outsourcing customers just as we have developed hypotheses Services Marketing, Vol. 16 No. 7, pp. 593-614.
of customer acquisition and customer retention. McDougall, G.H.G. and Levesque, T. (2000), “Customer
satisfaction with services: putting perceived value into the
equation”, Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 14 No. 5,
Note
pp. 392-410.
1 Claycomb and Martin (2002) investigate what Morgan, R. and Hunt, S. (1994), “The commitment-trust
practitioners do to build relationships with customers. theory of relationship marketing”, Journal of Marketing,
Their research reveals 18 categories of relationship- Vol. 58, July, pp. 20-38.
building initiatives: Continuity of communications, Pressey, A.D. and Mathews, B.P. (2000), “Barriers to
service quality, personalization, service differentiation relationship marketing in consumer retailing”, Journal of
and augmentation, affective engineering, employee Services Marketing, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 272-86.
relations, relationship pricing, systems friendliness, Ravald, A. and Grönroos, C. (1996), “The value concept and
pioneer advantage, trust, cross-selling, reinforcing thank- relationship marketing”, European Journal of Marketing,
yous, innovations, linking purchases, service recovery, Vol. 30 No. 2, pp. 19-30.
unconditional guarantees, customer-to-customer Reichheld, F.F. and Sasser, W.E. (1990), “Zero defections:
relationships and vulnerability. quality comes to services”, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 68,
September-October, pp. 105-11.
Reinartz, W.J. and Kumar, V. (2000), “On the profitability of
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243
The impact of customer relationship marketing on the firm performance Journal of Services Marketing
Carmen Camarero Izquierdo et al. Volume 19 · Number 4 · 2005 · 234 –244

customers and achieving customer satisfaction have an The research findings suggest that the effect of attraction
indirect effect on customer loyalty. However, advertising and loyalty programs is greater on market performance than
and promotion do not have a great impact on attracting new on economic performance.
customers or increasing customer awareness. Price
reductions, loyalty cards and free services do not help to
make garage customers more loyal (although these activities The implications for managers
are not common in the area of car repairs). Having good contact with customers seems to be the best way
Service quality, showing concern about complaints and, less of retaining profitable customers. Garages that show concern
strongly, having good contact with customers create the image about customer satisfaction and handle complaints well are
of an expert garage. However, bonuses offered to existing best placed to foster personal relationships with customers.
customers seem to make the customer less likely to rate the Garages that are close to the customer, have convenient
garage’s expertise highly. Commercial practices (such as opening hours, and repair vehicles quickly achieve greater
advertising, promotion and convenient opening hours) and customer loyalty than those that have customer loyalty
showing concern about customer satisfaction promote an programs.
image of the garage as offering a convenient service. Contact In general, the authors conclude that service providers
with customers, however, has a negative impact on this should put their efforts into improving quality rather than into
variable. Commercial practices and offering bonuses to promotion, advertising or giving economic bonuses to
existing customers create an image of the garage as a customers.
promotional establishment. And a garage’s concern about
customer satisfaction and dealing well with complaints (A précis of the article “The impact of customer relationship
engender an image of personalized relationships with the marketing on the firm performance: a Spanish case”. Supplied by
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garage. Marketing Consultants for Emerald.)

244
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