Measuring service quality and relationship marketing in a paid membership organisation : the influence of cognitive factors
Despite the mass of research into customer behaviour and expectations, very little has focused on paid-membership contexts (in which an individual must pay to join an organisation in order to receive the benefits of being a member of that organisation). This research focuses on the measurement of customer service quality in a paid membership organisation, together with the key characteristics of the organisation, its members and the relationship between these factors. However, as a fundamental part of customer service evaluation is the effectiveness of the evaluation instrument itself - current techniques and research regarding their effectiveness are reviewed and compared. Specifically, the SERVQUAL (Parasuraman et al., 1988) technique is documented, and research highlighting conceptual, methodological and interpretative problems is critically reviewed in light of recent advances in service quality measurement and the cognitive psychology of survey responding. On the basis of this review, a new measurement tool is developed and its effectiveness and reliability compared to SERVQUAL. Existing research on membership organisations and relationship marketing is also critically reviewed and discussed with respect to a specific paid membership organisation. The design, development and piloting of a survey specifically designed to evaluate the customer service provision of the particular professional paid membership organisation and the nature of its relationship (and relationship marketing activities) with its members, is then detailed, culminating in a full survey of the organisation's membership. The findings of the survey are critically reviewed and are found to be highly consistent with previous research on relationship marketing in membership organisations. The main conclusions are then critically discussed, together with methodological issues. Finally, directions for further research are considered.