Services today strive to build relationships with their customers. Generally, businesses focus on the relationship between the company and its customers, or the employees and the customers. However, there is another key relationship that could impact the business – the relationship between a customer and the other customers. This is particularly relevant in high contact service businesses (e.g. clubs, churches), as well as any business where customers are frequently interacting with each other. In her research, Dr. Black investigates how the number of connections among customers can impact the perceived level of support from other customers, as well as how this support impacts customer spending and customer referrals.
Dr. Black and her co-authors find that the as customers report increased number of connections to other customers, they experience increased levels of support from other customers. When the connections are basic, straightforward and lack intensity, customers report receiving more informational help and assistance from other customers. As this connection grows in strength and intensity, the customer reports receiving more emotional support from other customers. In terms of business performance measures, the research found that is the basic, simple connection among customers that pays off in terms of increased customer spending and referrals. Business managers will benefit by simply providing opportunities for their customers to connect to other customers. These connections need not be at a high level; simple, informational connections prove to benefit the organization.
Black, Hulda G., Vincent, Leslie H., & Skinner, Steven J. (in press, 2014). Customers Helping Customers: Payoffs for Linking Customers in Service Settings. Journal of Services Marketing, 28 (5).
Dr. Hulda Black is a member of the Department of Marketing – College of Business. Her teaching interests include: Integrated Marketing Communication, Services Marketing, Sport Marketing and Consumer Behavior. Additionally, Black's research interests include: Services Marketing, Healthcare Marketing, Sports Marketing and Consumer Well-being.
Black received her Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky.