The impact of sales encounters on brand loyalty

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<ul><li><p>lo</p><p>T</p><p>d loition iwect b4 doth. Saalt</p><p>nd loyaetitors,quisitioefforts oay, 200ping brildingat targcan i</p><p>brand to the cu</p><p>Journal of Business Research 63 (2010) 11481155</p><p>Contents lists available at ScienceDirect</p><p>Journal of Businbrand, and eventually brand loyalty as a central measure for brandperformance (Keller and Lehmann, 2003).</p><p>All different areas of a customer's contact with the brand providean opportunity for creating a favorable attitude and enhancing loyaltyto the brand. A key area of contact is the sales encounter (Sujan, 1988;van Dolen et al., 2002; Grace and O'Cass, 2005). Since a salesperson isoften the only contact person for the customer (Crosby et al., 1990;Chow and Holden, 1997), she or he can play a crucial role for the</p><p>et al., 2009).Previous studies show that the ability of both the customer and the</p><p>salesperson to communicate, to interact, and to build strong relation-ships leads to favorable outcomes in terms of satisfaction (Crosby andStephens, 1987; Brown and Swartz, 1989; Crosby et al., 1990). So far,previous research has neglected whether and how these perceptionsregarding the interaction between customers and salespeople can alsolead to brand loyalty (Gremler and Brown, 1996). Additionally, mostcustomer's experience with and evaluation oand Solomon, 1987; Bendapudi and BerMitchell, 2002; Bendapudi and Bendapud</p><p> Corresponding author.University of St. Gallen, Center fo51, CH-9000 St. Gallen, Switzerland. Tel.: +41 71 224 2890</p><p>E-mail address: tim.brexendorf@unisg.ch (T.O. Brexe</p><p>0148-2963/$ see front matter 2009 Elsevier Inc. Aldoi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2009.10.011nuence the customers'erent outcomes, such asnd behavior towards the</p><p>during the interaction with the salesperson help the customerconstruct brand meaning that impacts the preferences for as well asthe evaluation of the brand (Lynch and de Chernatony, 2007; Brakusmindset and may result in a number of diffbrand awareness, brand associations, attitude aIn highly competitive markets brabenets like erecting barriers to compand revenues, reducing customer accustomers' susceptibility to marketingWalker, 2001; Rundle-Thiele andMackbrand loyalty and the process of develoconcern for brand management. Buinvestments in marketing programs thcustomers. These marketing activitieslty generates numerousgenerating greater salesn costs, and inhibitingf competitors (Knox and1). As such, the sources ofand loyalty are of centralbrand loyalty requireset current and potential</p><p>Mitchell, 2002; Bendapudi and Bendapudi, 2005); by this, theytransform and implement a company's brand strategy.</p><p>During a sales encounter, mainly the interaction between thesalesperson and the customer impacts the customer's perception ofthe salesperson and the perception of the brand (Iacobucci andHibbard, 1999; de Chernatony, 2001). The salesperson's behaviorleads to associations that the customer relates to the brand,specically to the meaning of the brand. Feelings and experiencesf the brand (Surprenantry, 1997; Berry, 2000;i, 2005; Lynch and de</p><p>of the empiricalsure only one sidthe interactive c</p><p>This study coby investigatingaffect encounterpurpose, the stuanalysis.</p><p>r Customer Insight, Rosenbergstr.; fax: +41 71 224 2132.ndorf).</p><p>l rights reserved.stomer (Booms and Nyquist, 1981; Berry, 2000;</p><p>1. Introduction Chernatony, 2007). Salespeople epitomize, represent, and dene theThe impact of sales encounters on brand</p><p>Tim Oliver Brexendorf a,, Silke Mhlmeier a, Torstena University of St. Gallen, Switzerlandb European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder), Germany</p><p>a b s t r a c ta r t i c l e i n f o</p><p>Article history:Received 1 July 2008Received in revised form 1 January 2009Accepted 1 August 2009</p><p>Keywords:Brand loyaltyBrand attitudeSales encounterSales encounter satisfactionSalesperson loyalty</p><p>Gaining and sustaining branresearchers as well as practcustomer and the salespersostrengthening the bond bethow sales encounters impalacking. Using data from 15shows the perceptions of bperformance on satisfactionattitude and salesperson loyyalty</p><p>omczak a, Martin Eisend b</p><p>yalty is a key challenge in increasingly competitive markets. Many marketingners emphasize the critical role of the interpersonal interaction between then inuencing customer satisfaction, generating favorable brand attitudes anden the customers and the brand. So far, empirical research that investigatesrand loyalty by enhancing customer satisfaction with the sales encounter isyads of customers and salespersons of a large automobile brand, this studythe customer and the salesperson regarding the impact of sales encounterles encounter satisfaction, in turn, leads to brand loyalty by enhancing brandy.</p><p> 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.</p><p>ess Researchstudies addressing buyerseller relationships mea-e of the salesperson/customer dyad, thus neglectingharacter of the encounter.ntributes to previous research in brand managementhow perceptions of the sales encounter performancesatisfaction and, by this, lead to brand loyalty. For thisdy uses customersalesperson dyads as units of the</p></li><li><p>2. Conceptual framework and hypotheses</p><p>2.1. Conceptual framework</p><p>A sales encounter is an event of ongoing interaction between thesalesperson and the customer where both the salesperson's and thecustomer's behavior affects perceptions, beliefs, and the behavior ofthe interacting partner (Susskind et al., 2003; Subramony et al., 2004).Studies in personal selling and service research show a closerelationship between the perception of the salesperson and theperception of the customer and her or his satisfaction with the service(Schneider et al., 1992, 1998; van Dolen et al., 2002). The moresuccessful the perception of the encounter, the higher the satisfactionwith the encounter will be (van Dolen et al., 2002). A dyadic approachconsiders (both) the customer's and the salesperson's perceptions ofencounter performance and experiences of encounter satisfaction(van Dolen et al., 2002).</p><p>Customer sales encounter satisfaction relates to brand loyalty. Thestudy considers a direct and an indirect path from satisfaction to loyalty,taking salesperson loyalty and brand attitude into account. Fig. 1 showsthe basic framework that guides the present research. The followingsection develops the underlying hypotheses within this framework.</p><p>2.2. Hypotheses</p><p>2.2.1. Antecedents of customer encounter satisfactionPrevious research shows that salespeople's actionshave an impact on</p><p>customer satisfaction with the salesperson (Oliver and Swan, 1989) aswell as on the satisfaction with the sales encounter (van Dolen et al.,</p><p>the knowledge, the ability, and the concern to fulll a task based onexpertise regarding the customers' needs (Williams and Spiro, 1985;van Dolen et al., 2002; Homburg and Stock, 2005). Salesperson's taskcompetence relates to customer satisfaction (Macintosh, 2002).According to the component model of relational competence (Spitz-berg and Hecht, 1984), the competencies of the salesperson and thecustomer alike determine the impressions of the sales encounter.These impressions impact the satisfaction with the encounter.Findings of several qualitative studies show that a contact employee'sability and competence help solve a customer's problems andpositively inuence customer satisfaction (Bitner et al., 1990, 1994).</p><p>Interaction competence includes communicative behavior thatsupports an interpersonal relationship (Williams and Spiro, 1985;Winsted, 1997). According to the interpersonal needs theory (Schutz,1966), a person has particular needs concerning interactions and onlywhen interactions meet this needs, the person experiences theinteraction to be a rewarding one. These needs cover, for instance,the feeling of perceiving a sense of authority in decision making or theneed for respectful treatment (Cragan and Wright, 1991). If theseneeds are (not) met, the person is likely to be (dis)satised with heror his experience (Anderson and Martin, 1995).</p><p>The salesperson's interaction competence plays a crucial role inmeeting these needs.When the customer perceives the salesperson asbeing a cooperative partner who has a strong desire to help thecustomer and is genuinely concerned in an appropriate manner, thecustomer may experience a fulllment of interpersonal needs andthus, s/he is more likely to be satised with the sales encounter. Forinstance, Ramsey and Sohi (1997) nd that customers are more likelyto build trust with a car dealer, the more the customers perceive that</p><p>1149T.O. Brexendorf et al. / Journal of Business Research 63 (2010) 114811552002). This study focuses on the perceived competence and expertise ofsalespeople as drivers of customer satisfaction since these characteristicsrelate to the perceived performance of the sales encounter.</p><p>Considering the performance of the interaction between salesper-son and customer, two types of competences are important: taskcompetence and interaction competence. Task competence refers toFig. 1. Conceptuathe salesperson is listening to them.</p><p>H1. The salesperson's task competence as perceived by the customeris positively associated with the customer encounter satisfaction.</p><p>H2. The salesperson's interaction competence as perceived by the cus-tomer is positively associatedwith the customer encounter satisfaction.l framework.</p></li><li><p>job more enjoyable (Hartline and Ferrell, 1996).Additionally, the salesperson encounter satisfaction depends on</p><p>1150 T.O. Brexendorf et al. / Journal of Business Research 63 (2010) 11481155her or his perceived performance in interacting with the customer.The performance of the encounter depends particularly on thecompetence of the interaction partner and thus, the customercomes into play. While the salesperson may perceive her or himselfas having high interaction competence, the crucial factor is actuallythe interaction competence of the customer. In order to be successful,a salesperson tries to establish a strong bond with the customer(Beatty et al., 1996). The interaction competence of the customerfacilitates the interpersonal relationship and creates a positiveevaluation of the salesperson, for example by showing cooperative-ness, the willingness to establish a personal relationship and aninterest in the salesperson. When the salesperson perceives theinteraction as enjoyable, pleasant, and comfortable, salespersonencounter satisfaction increases (Williams et al., 1990; van Dolenet al., 2002).</p><p>H3. The salesperson's task competence as perceived by the sales-person is positively associated with the salesperson encountersatisfaction.</p><p>H4. The customer's interaction competence as perceived by thesalesperson is positively associated with the salesperson encountersatisfaction.</p><p>2.2.3. Encounter satisfaction mirrorThe mutual inuence between satisfaction of the salesperson and</p><p>the customer is a satisfaction mirror (Heskett et al., 1997). Referringto emotional contagion (Hateld et al., 1992), previous studies arguethat positive emotions displayed by the salesperson can transfer tothe customer (Verbeke, 1997; Pugh, 2001). Emotional contagionpronounces that emotions and attitudinal states of individualsmeeting each other automatically transfer between the initiator andthe recipient of the encounter in order to synchronize moods andemotional states (Hateld et al., 1992; Barsade, 2002). According tobalance theory, such conforming interactions result in increasedattitudinal similarity (Newcomb, 1958) which increases the liking ofthe interaction partners. Both emotional contagion and balancetheory provide an explanation of the relationship between thesalesperson encounter satisfaction and customer sales encountersatisfaction. Bernhardt et al. (2000) have provided empirical supportfor a positive relationship between salesperson and customer overallsatisfaction. This study focuses on encounter satisfaction and assumesa similar satisfaction mirror. Although both salesperson and customer2.2.2. Antecedents of salesperson encounter satisfactionLittle research has focused on salesperson satisfaction with the sales</p><p>encounter (van Dolen et al., 2002). This study suggests that thesalesperson's perceptions of her/his task competence and of thecustomer's interaction competence impact her or his satisfaction withthe encounter.</p><p>Skills and aptitudes are main determinants of a salesperson'sperformance (Churchill et al., 1985). In order to capture relevantconstructs, such as talent, experience, and expertise, this study refersto perceived task competence of a salesperson in order to predictsatisfaction with the sales encounter. The meta-analysis by Churchilland colleagues supports the appropriateness of such self-reportedmeasures as predictors of a salesperson's performance. According tosocial learning theory (Bandura, 1977), self-efcacy refers to asalesperson's beliefs in her or his ability to perform job-related tasksproperly. Thus, the extent to which the salesperson sees herself orhimself as capable of fullling customer expectations will inuenceher or his satisfaction with the encounter (van Dolen et al., 2002); thefeelings of competence that accompany self-efcacy make her or hissatisfaction are mutually dependent, the main focus of marketers isthe impact of salesperson satisfaction on customer satisfaction(Homburg and Stock, 2004). Therefore,</p><p>H5. The salesperson encounter satisfaction is positively associatedwith the customer encounter satisfaction.</p><p>2.2.4. Outcomes of customer encounter satisfaction</p><p>2.2.4.1. Brand loyalty (direct). The literature distinguishes betweentwo separate loyalty concepts behavioral brand loyalty andattitudinal brand loyalty (Baldinger and Rubinson, 1996). Behavioralbrand loyalty refers to the customer's tendency to repurchase a brand,revealed through behavior or brand sales (e.g., actual purchasesobserved over time) (Hammond et al., 1996). In contrast, attitudinalbrand loyalty contains favorable attitudes towards intention torepurchase as well as commitment towards the brand (Mellenset al., 1996; Bennett and Rundle-Thiele, 2002). The present studyfocuses on the concept of attitudinal brand loyalty.</p><p>Several studies show that satisfaction with a brand is a keyantecedent of brand loyalty (Bloemer et al., 1999; Szymanski andHenard, 2001; Chandrashekaran et al., 2007). If salespeople do indeedrepresent a brand and transmit a brand image during the encounterwith a customer, satisfaction with the encounter may affect brandloyalty in a similar way (Bloemer and Lemmink, 1992). Successfulinteractions between the salesperson and the customer buildcustomer bonds with the salesperson and thus with the brand aswell (Crosby et al., 1990; De Wulf et al., 2001). Thus,</p><p>H6. Customer encounter satisfaction is positively associated withbrand loyalty.</p><p>2.2.4.2. Brand loyalty (indirect). To further specify the effect of cus-tomer encounter satisfaction on brand loyalty, the study introduces twomediating paths. One path is referring to the salesperson by usingsalesperson loyalty as amediatorwhile the other path is referring to thebrand by using brand attitude...</p></li></ul>