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Nov. 27, 2018

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Marketing, Lazaridis School of Business and Economics

My main focus of research is Service and Relationship Marketing, two topics intertwined due to the long term nature of many customer-service provider relationships. I have been interested in the field of Service Marketing and Management since my days doing doctoral research when I closely collaborated with BT, one of the world’s largest Telecom Service Providers, to address a research problem that had major managerial implications for the firm.

My recent research (collaboration with Canadian and US scholars) which appeared in the Journal of Marketing Management, titled, A Prototyping Analysis of Relationship Marketing Constructs: What Constructs to Use When, addresses a problem that is important not only to the service and relationship marketing domain, but also many other social science disciplines; that of precisely capturing the various concepts that are of interest to scholars. It is also of interest to practitioners because these same concepts are often measured by firms to capture the state of customer-firm relationships.

As the field of relationship marketing evolved over the years, a number of key constructs emerged to capture relationships. Some scholars have argued that these constructs are not conceptually or empirically distinct. Because constructs lie at the heart of theory development, this has led to some confusion in the field. We used prototyping as the methodology to investigate and clarify. In our research we found a number of constructs with substantial overlap and a few with unique attributes. We also found that not all constructs fit all contexts, raising concerns about the common practice among scholars of adapting scales from other domains. Based on the findings we broadly classified the constructs as those evaluating the relationship, those that represent the ‘stickiness’ of the relationship and those that represent the relationship outcomes. We also recommended ways of determining what constructs to use when, giving specific guidance to future researchers.

During the investigation, we also observed that new constructs are being introduced even today, with even more conceptual overlaps with old constructs. While early conceptual confusion is natural in any field, this continuing debate over a seemingly familiar problem was nevertheless surprising.

My next steps in this research area will be to broaden the use of the prototyping methodology to address research problems in related areas.

It is fairly well understood that terminology can be confusing; that scholars sometimes use different words to capture or describe similar phenomena. Yet the implications of such practices are seldom debated. Through this research, we hope to communicate that sustained research effort towards studying conceptually overlapping and at times redundant constructs, while treating them as independent, can hamper the development of the field.

This research can provide insights to scholars studying not only relationship marketing, but also many other social phenomena that are difficult to capture. Furthermore, practitioners and firms who measure various metrics to monitor their customer relationship building and maintaining capabilities will find this research helpful in streamlining what they measure.

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