Original Research

Customer experience, satisfaction and loyalty in business-to-business markets: Does the chain hold across customer segments?

Gert Human, Caitlin C. Ferreira, Jeandri Robertson, Michelle Whiterspoon
Acta Commercii | Vol 20, No 1 | a855 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ac.v20i1.855 | © 2020 Gert Human, Caitlin C. Ferreira, Jeandri Robertson, Michelle Whiterspoon | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 February 2020 | Published: 21 July 2020

About the author(s)

Gert Human, Department of Business Management, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
Caitlin C. Ferreira, Marketing Section, School of Management Studies, Faculty of Commerce, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Jeandri Robertson, Marketing Section, School of Management Studies, Faculty of Commerce, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Michelle Whiterspoon, School of Management Studies, Faculty of Commerce, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

Orientation: This study considers the influence of customer experience gained during sales interaction episodes on customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and ultimately willingness to recommend the focal firm in a business-to-business context and compares these associations across multiple firm-specific customer segments.

Research purpose: This study seeks to examine whether an experience–satisfaction–loyalty causal model would hold across case-specific heterogeneous customer segments in a business-to-business context.

Motivation for the study: Industrial marketing researchers often overlook customer experiences, particularly relating to sales interactions. These interactions are prone to variation across customer segments, and the associated heterogeneity may lead to gaps in our understanding of how such interactions could impact customer loyalty and ultimately willingness to recommend a firm in a business-to-business context.

Research design, approach and method: The quantitative design made use of a focal firm approach as a single case study of enquiry, surveying a valid sample of 1004 of the focal firm’s customers. The data was analysed using variance based structural equation modelling after being subjected to validity and reliability testing. The multigroup analysis was conducted using case driven characteristics to compare the theoretical model across customer segments.

Main findings: A simplified model to explain willingness to recommend was subjected to multi-group analyses across four key theoretical relationship dimensions. The results provide support for linkages between sales interaction experience, customer satisfaction, loyalty and ultimately willingness to recommend.

Practical/managerial implications: The findings could facilitate the development of relationship management strategies that account for the heterogeneity in customer segments.

Contribution/value-add: It appears useful to consider the heterogeneity that may exist between customer groups and segments that could potentially distort assumed linear associations.


Keywords

relationship marketing; emerging market; interaction experience; customer satisfaction; market heterogeneity

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