According to Gronroos (1997), marketing in relational terms means “To establish, maintain and enhance relationships with customers and other partners, at a profit so that the objectives of the parties involved are met. This is achieved by mutual exchange and fulfillment of promises”. As to whether a business will profitably benefit from investing in relationship with its customers and other stakeholders, a lot depends on the nature of the business. With regards to certain sectors, like the service sectors, it becomes imperative to develop the relationship with its customers, so as to ensure consistent growth and sustainable competitive advantage.
In big organizations like the banks, the bureaucracy makes it difficult for these institutions to be responsive to the needs of their customers. Hence customer relationship building becomes problematic. But taking a small business like a hairdressing salon, various relationship management techniques are blindly employed by these hairdressers to build relationships with customers.
This paper uses the situation of a hairdressing salon located at Akweteyman, a suburb of Accra, Ghana to explain how relationships with customers are built over the years. Top Curls Beauty Salon, located in Akweteyman, is owned and run by Joyce Owusuwaa. She has employed three hairstylists and has six apprentices. She has operated the business for Ten years, and currently is patronized by lots of women from the locality and beyond. Relationship management techniques clearly play out in such small businesses because of the fact that those delivering the services are mostly the owners, and have the passion to see the business grow, hence making them highly entrepreneurial.
Conditions that are conducive to relationship management
It is not every business that can profitably practice relationship management. Certain conditions must exist to foster the development of an intimate relationship with clients. According to Szmigin and Bourne (1998), the value of a relationship, and by implication the desire to commit to it, will depend on the nature of the service, the nature of the consumers and the nature of the situation. Berry (1983), discussing the service sector identifies three conditions for the applicability of Relationship Management. First of all, the customer has to show a continuing and periodic desire for the service. Secondly, the service customer must be able to select the service provider, and finally there must be a choice of suppliers available to the customer. Berry (1995), further points out that, high involvement services, such as banking, insurance and hairstyling services have the characteristics which lend themselves to relationship building.
Taking the case of Top Curls Beauty Salon located at Akweteyman, a suburb of Accra, it has the conditions conducive to Relationship building. Women, both young and old, have a continuing and periodic (which could be fortnightly or weekly) desire to have a hairstyle that enhance their beauty and appearance. The clients, in this case the women themselves; do the selection of the hairstylist. There is also a plethora of hairstylists and salons around the Akweteyman locality, in which case constitutes a large pool of hair salons available to the customers.
So how does Top Curls Beauty Salon build relationship with customers?
Consistency of quality of service
For Joyce, quality of service is very critical to building a long-term relationship with its customers. Quality of service, in terms of a hairstylist, has to do with how good the client feels at the end of delivering the service. Not necessarily the final product in terms of pleasant appearance, but how the person was attended to at the salon upon entering it, how the salon attendants as well as the final hairstylist were gentle with the hair of...