The influence of critical service incidents in a health and fitness club environment: exploring buyer and seller relationship perspectives.

This source preferred by John Oliver

Authors: Oliver, J.

The study of critical service incidents has been extensively investigated in service marketing, however, very little attention has been paid to the role that these incidents have in the building, development and maintenance of marketing relationships. This thesis sought to address the deficiency in knowledge on the subject by exploring the critical service incident from a relational exchange perspective, with the members and management of a health and fitness club providing the central focus of the buyer-seller relationship. This investigation adopted a pragmatic philosophy in methodological design, arguing that the research had to be conducted within real time business constraints. Action research was used as an umbrella strategy for this investigation which incorporated a multi-method research design that consisted of; participant observation, in-depth interviews, a management group discussion and a telephone survey to investigate the questions of each research cycle. Whilst existing service marketing literature implies that positive and negative critical service incidents result in the bi-polar outcomes of buyer loyalty or switching respectively, the findings of this research demonstrated that the critical service incident may not be that critical to the development and maintenance of the relationship. The thesis makes an original contribution to knowledge by developing existing relationship marketing theory and making explicit the influence of the critical service incident on the buyer-seller relationship that is implied in service marketing literature. This thesis proposes that the critical service incident, produces buyer inferences, effects and consequences that result in a tendency toward loyalty or switching and that when the duration of the buyer-seller relationship is considered, these evaluative buyer judgements produce a phenomenon termed 'relationship elasticity'.

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