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Advancing relationship marketing theory: exploring customer relationships through a process-centric framework

Abstract

Relationship marketing is commonly defined as a process. Its essential process dimension, however, remains surprisingly under-theorized. In this conceptual paper, we address this theoretical void and begin to develop a process-centric framework to explore company-customer relationships. This framework distinguishes four ideal-typical models of the relationship marketing process: (1) life-cycle, (2) evolutionary, (3) teleological and (4) dialectical process models. Our review of the relationship marketing literature reveals the prevalence of life-cycle conceptions of the relationship marketing process, followed by teleological and evolutionary conceptions. It is against this backdrop that we illustrate the value of dialectical process models as a first promising opportunity to advance relationship marketing theory. The second opportunity we showcase consists in combining two (or more) of these process models. We end with guidelines on how to identify suitable combinations of commensurable process models to systematize the multifaceted opportunities for advancing theory in relationship marketing and beyond.

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Correspondence to Antje S. J. Hütten.

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Hütten, A.S.J., Salge, T.O., Niemand, T. et al. Advancing relationship marketing theory: exploring customer relationships through a process-centric framework. AMS Rev 8, 39–57 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13162-017-0091-x

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Keywords

  • Relationship marketing process
  • Customer relationships
  • Process theories
  • Dialectics
  • Dual-motor theory
  • Theory combination