Implementing Relationship Marketing: the Role of Internal and External Customer Orientation

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IMPLEMENTING RELATIONSHIP MARKETING: THE ROLE OF INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL CUSTOMER ORIENTATION

by

T.F.J. Steyn*, S.M. Ellis** and F.A.A. Musika*

*WorkWell: Research Unit for People, Policy & Performance
School of Entrepreneurship, Marketing and Tourism Management Potchefstroom Campus
North West University[1]

**Statistical Consultation Service
Potchefstroom Campus
North West University

Paper presented at the European Institute for Advances Studies in Management (EIASM) Workshop on Relationship Marketing, EIASM, Brussels, Belgium, 27 – 28 January 2004

IMPLEMENTING RELATIONSHIP MARKETING: THE ROLE OF INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL CUSTOMER ORIENTATION

ABSTRACT

Developing an internal and external customer orientation will facilitate the implementation of relationship marketing principles by businesses. Relationship marketing highlights the need for an external customer orientation, which in turn raises the need for customer-oriented employees. Employees will only be customer-oriented if an internal customer orientation is evident in the business.

Four constructs pertaining to the internal customer orientation of small- to medium-sized textile retailers in the North-West Province were identified. After checking for internal consistency, effect sizes were determined for these constructs analysing the practical significance of employees’ as opposed to management’s opinion on the underlying constructs. Similarly, four constructs referring to the external customer orientation of the same businesses were identified. The four identified constructs underpinning an external customer orientation were also checked for internal consistency and the practical significance of customers’ as opposed to management’s opinion on the underlying constructs was determined through effect sizes. It was found that the identified businesses lack both an internal and external customer orientation.

Recommendations are made to improve internal customer orientation for the sake of an improved external customer orientation. An improved external customer orientation will facilitate implementation of relationship marketing principles in these businesses.

INTRODUCTION

According to Saren and Tzokas (1998:187) researchers in relationship marketing have come to realise that there is a need for detailed empirical evidence on how this approach could be implemented in order to promote a beneficial customer-business relationship. Morris, Brunegee and Page (1998:360) and Fornier (1998:343) argue that a lack of knowledge and consensus about relationship marketing and the activities involved in the implementation thereof has led to difficulties in operationalising the construct. This study addresses this concern by arguing that a relationship marketing orientation is facilitated by management being sufficiently orientated to the needs and expectations of employees (internal customer orientation) as well as to those of customers (external customer orientation). The internal and external customer orientations of small- to medium-sized textile retailers in the North-West Province were investigated by means of effect size analyses.

The goal and objectives of the study are subsequently explained, followed by a theoretical exposition on the interface between relationship marketing as well as internal and external customer orientation. A description of the research methodology is followed by the empirical results on internal and external customer orientation of the businesses that participated in the study. Conclusions are drawn from these empirical findings. Finally, managerial implications are discussed based on the conclusions.

GOAL AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

The goal of this study is to explore internal and external customer orientation as elements facilitating relationship marketing implementation by small- to medium-sized textile retailers in the North-West Province. This goal will be achieved through the following objectives:

• to...
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