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Establishing relationships with consumers as a means of overcoming the anonymous nature of many business transactions, is not a new concept. However, its implementation as a distinct direction in marketing (Relationship Marketing), is a relatively new phenomenon. Nevertheless, its focus and direction remains unclear. Indeed, it has been argued that the proliferation of relationship marketing literature and business practice has focused largely on what the firm perceives a relationship to be, while ignoring the distinct viewpoint of end consumers. This study attempts to address this by exploring genuine relationship development from the consumer’s perspective, in retail banding. It takes an exploratory, qualitative approach, by using focus groups with consumers of relatively complex retail banking products. Consumers’ perceptions were analysed by drawing on the literature of social psychology to gain a greater understanding of the present state of consumer-bank relationships, and the potential for relationship development in that sector. It was found that close relationships were largely absent in retail banking due to a depersonalisation of the banking process and the perception that the bank was not interested in developing one. This contrasted with the desire by many consumers for some type of relationship based on trust and commitment. While banking relationships were desired by most consumers, this would not be seen to be with the bank, but would instead be focused on one or more members of staff. Some individuals would be prepared for a technology based relationship, but for many the consumer-staff interaction will continue to determine the perceived strength of any relationship. In conclusion, it could be stated that although many consumers patronise their bank for a long period of time, this is not due to the presence of a long term relationship based on commitment. As a result many banking institutions have achieved short term competitive advantage based on price or technology, rather than competitive advantage based on mutually beneficial relationships which have the potential to make their customer base immune to competitors’ advances.
Clancy, I.: an Exploration of Firm-customer Relationships in Retail Banking. Masters Thesis. Dublin Institute of Technology, 1998.