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Does relationship quality matter in E-Services? A comparison of online and offline retailing

Walsh, G. and Hennig-Thurau, Thorsten and Bornemann, D. and Sassenberg, K. (2010) Does relationship quality matter in E-Services? A comparison of online and offline retailing. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 17 (2). pp. 130-142. ISSN 0969-6989

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The quality of the relationship between customers and service firms has been found to be a major driver of customer loyalty in traditional (i.e., offline) service contexts. The increasing use of electronic services, or e-services, raises questions concerning the extent to which the relationship quality-customer loyalty link holds in an e-service context. Based on an extended model of relationship quality and by applying the social information processing perspective, this research tests the relevance of relationship quality for online relationships and explores differences of the relationship quality-loyalty link between online and offline retailers. To test the model, a large-scale study is conducted on both online and offline relationships for two service contexts (media and travel retailing). Using multi-group structural equation modeling, the authors identify differences between the online and offline environment in both service contexts. Results show that (1) relationship quality is similarly important for retaining customers online and offline and (2) differences in the impact of relationship-quality dimensions strongly depends on the service context.