Conceptualising private client behaviour within the professional service relationship
This study, which seeks to conceptualise client behaviours within the professional service relationship is located within the academic literature associated with relationship marketing. However, this study differs from the main characteristics of that literature in two ways. First, that literature focuses on the organisational benefits of retaining customers and empirical work to explore the benefits customer's receive is limited. This study, among clients of a professional service, provides a better understanding of why clients maintain relationships with solicitors and how their motives influence their behaviours within that relationship. Secondly, empirical studies are primarily focused within the business-to-business context and attempts to extend theory generated from that context into consumer markets have been criticised. The focus of this study is the private client perspective. Consequently, this thesis draws heavily on construct and theory development within the social exchange literature to explain the empirical findings and highlight limitations with the conceptual development and measurement of constructs with the relationship marketing literature. This thesis provides empirical support for the propositions that the presence of particular interaction variables will generate trust in the solicitor among private clients and that the presence of trust in the solicitor will result in private-client commitment to that relationship. Specific behaviours, exhibited by clients committed to the private client-solicitor relationship, are identified and suggestions made regarding client behaviours that emerge when private clients are not committed to the relationship. The thesis also critiques the way in which the trust and commitment constructs have been conceptualised and measured within the marketing discipline. An agenda is identified for future research to extend knowledge in four broad areas: the appropriateness of relationship marketing theory for the professional service context; conceptual and measurement scale development of constructs that underpin relationship marketing theory; differentiation of antecedents generating trust in, or reliance upon, professional services providers; and further understanding of private client behaviours within the professional services relationship.