Conceptualizing Relationship Maintenance Through The Relationship Life Cycle: Relationship Enhancement, Stabilization, And Repair
Recent relationship marketing research has focused on developmental, path dependent nature of relationships where the rate and direction of change in the relationship is dynamic, arguing that relationships do not develop incrementally and consistently from one stage to another Instead, exchange events can change the course of a B2B relationship. Maintenance of customer relationships has been treated rather narrowly in the marketing literature so far. Relationship maintenance is a set of strategies to achieve enhancement, stabilization, or repair of the relationship with their customers based on the life cycle stage of the relationship. The purpose of this paper is to propose a conceptual framework for strategic ‘maintenance’ of customer relationships in B2B settings from the perspective of seller firms. Drawing on the extant marketing and social psychology literature, we propose a framework that can help examine how seller firms can invest resources into tending to their customer relationships with strategic goals in mind. As determined by the Relationship Life Cycle research, relationships go through four phases: introduction, expansion, commitment and indifference phase. Building on these, we propose three categories of relational maintenance strategies- relationship enhancement, relationship stabilization and relationship repair Strategies. We offer a set of propositions predicting how the relationships can be maintained (enhanced, stabilized and repaired) in the different stages of the relationship life cycle. The proposed framework is in tune with the dynamic nature of buyer-seller relationships and hence the realities of the market place. The paper ends with a discussion of managerial implications.