Customer Trust in the Salesperson: An Integrative Review and Meta-Analysis of the Empirical Literature John E. Swan Michael R. Bowers Lynne D. Richardson
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM
The development of trust between salespeople and their customers has traditionally been considered a critical element in developing and maintaining a successful sales relationship. This article presents the first comprehensive literature review and meta-analysis of the antecedents of trust and consequences of trust in a sales context. A summary conclusion is that trust has a moderate but beneficial influence on the development of positive customer attitudes, intentions, and behavior. Another conclusion is that salespeople have modest influence over the development of trust between themselves and their customers. A comprehensive model of the role of trust in sales is presented. Directions for future research are identified. J BUSN RES 1999. 44.93–107. © 1998 Elsevier Science Inc.
for definitions of trust and its measurement, determinants of trust, consequences of customer trust, and conducted a metaanalysis of both determinants and outcomes of trust.
Locating Research Results
The validity of a meta-analysis is dependent on the researchers incorporating all possible individual research results. To that end, an extensive search of the empirical literature was examined for studies in which customer trust of the salespeople was treated explicitly, as well as studies in which the content of the investigation included some part of the domain of customer trust. The search included using ABI/INFORM, 1971 to present, an electronic listing of abstracts from a large number of business journals. The indices of these journals were also reviewed. To search for possible behavioral science articles, PsycINFO (computer access of Psychological Abstracts starting in 1984) was used. To identify relevant proceedings studies, we reviewed the American Marketing Association’s Summer and Winter Educators Conferences, 1980 to date (except for a few issues that were missing from the library holdings); and abstracts of the National Conference in Sales Management, which appear in the Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, inception to date. The time period covered seems appropriate as the first explicit studies of customer trust date from the early 1980s, whereas a few studies encompassing some aspect of trust date from the 1970s.
he trust a customer has in a salesperson is generally thought to be a key determinant of the quality of their relationship. Customer trust is a topic of both theoretical and practical importance. The emerging theory of relationship marketing is centered on customer trust (Morgan and Hunt, 1994), and it is reasonable to posit the salesperson is a key factor in trust development in business-to-business marketing. As a practical matter, salespeople, sales managers, and other marketers need to know how customer trust is won and what outcomes follow from trust. Investigations of customer trust of salespeople date from the mid 1970s; however, a review of the literature has not appeared. The major objective of this study is to report on a meta-analysis of the trust literature to contribute to the development of the topic. An overview of research findings is provided, and gaps in knowledge are revealed that could be addressed by future research. We examined the literature Address correspondence to John E. Swan, Professor of Marketing, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1150 10th Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 352944460. Journal of Business Research 44, 93–107 (1999) © 1998 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved. 655 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10010
Data Collection and Analysis
Of the articles gathered for this study, 16 contain enough information to be included in the meta-analysis. The small number of studies posed a limitation on the power of the statistical tests in the meta-analysis. To...
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