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Workshop Comunicação_Doc. mktrelacional_gratitude

Workshop Comunicação_Doc. mktrelacional_gratitude

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Robert W. Palmatier, Cheryl Burke Jarvis, Jennifer R. Bechkoff, & Frank R. Kardes

The Role of Customer Gratitude in Relationship Marketing
Most theories of relationship marketing emphasize the role of trust and commitment in affecting performance outcomes; however, a recent meta-analysis indicates that other mediating mechanisms are at work. Data from two studies—a laboratory experiment and a dyadic longitudinal field survey—demonstrate that gratitude also mediates the influence of a seller’s r
Robert W. Palmatier, Cheryl Burke Jarvis, Jennifer R. Bechkoff, & Frank R. Kardes

The Role of Customer Gratitude in Relationship Marketing
Most theories of relationship marketing emphasize the role of trust and commitment in affecting performance outcomes; however, a recent meta-analysis indicates that other mediating mechanisms are at work. Data from two studies—a laboratory experiment and a dyadic longitudinal field survey—demonstrate that gratitude also mediates the influence of a seller’s r

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Published by: Agr D. Dinis-odivelas Pombais on Aug 10, 2012
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Journal of Marketing 
Vol.73 (September 2009),1–18 ©2009,American Marketing AssociationISSN:0022-2429 (print),1547-7185 (electronic)
RobertW.Palmatier, Cheryl Burke Jarvis, Jennifer R.Bechkoff, &Frank R.Kardes
The Role of Customer Gratitude inRelationship Marketing
Most theories of relationship marketing emphasize the role of trust and commitment in affecting performanceoutcomes;however, a recent meta-analysis indicates that other mediating mechanisms are at work.Data from twostudies—a laboratory experiment and a dyadic longitudinal field survey—demonstrate that gratitude also mediatesthe influence of a seller’s relationship marketing investments on performance outcomes.Specifically, relationshipmarketing investments generate short-term feelings of gratitude that drive long-lasting performance benefits basedon gratitude-related reciprocal behaviors.The authors identify a set of managerially relevant factors and test theirpower to alter customer perceptions of relationship marketing investments to increase customer gratitude, whichcan make relationship marketing programs more effective.Overall, the research empirically demonstrates thatgratitude plays an important role in understanding how relationship marketing investments increase purchaseintentions, sales growth, and share of wallet.
:gratitude, reciprocity, relationship marketing, customer relationship management, loyalty programs
RobertW.Palmatier is John C.Narver Endowed Chair in Business Admin-istration and Associate Professor of Marketing, Michael G.Foster Schoolof Business, University of Washington (e-mail:palmatrw@u.washington.edu).Cheryl Burke Jarvis is Associate Professor of Marketing, College ofBusiness, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (e-mail:cbjarvis@cba.siu.edu).Jennifer R.Bechkoff is Assistant Professor of Marketing, Collegeof Business, San Jose State University (e-mail:Jennifer.Bechkoff@sjsu.edu).Frank R.Kardes is Donald E.Weston Professor of Marketing, Col-lege of Business, University of Cincinnati (e-mail:frank.kardes@uc.edu).The authors thank Robert B.Cialdini and Marcus Cunha Jr.for their help-ful comments and the Marketing Science Institute and the Institute for theStudy of Business Markets for financial support of this research.
Thesentiment which most immediately and directlyprompts us to reward, is gratitude.—Adam Smith
any researchers and managers maintain that one of the key goals of marketing is to build and sustainstrong customer relationships (Bagozzi 1995; DeWulf, Odekerken-Schröder, and Iacobucci 2001; McKenna1991). A large body of research in both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) marketsestablishes empirically that relationship marketing (RM)investments enhance both customer trust and commitment,and in turn these relational mediators influence customerbehaviors, leading to superior seller performance (Moor-man, Zaltman, and Deshpandé 1992; Morgan and Hunt1994; Sirdeshmukh, Singh, and Sabol 2002). This well-supported commitment–trust theory of RM has served asthe default model for most relationship research in the pastdecade, such that RM encompasses all activities directedtoward establishing, developing, and maintaining successfulrelational exchanges (Morgan and Hunt 1994).However, a meta-analysis based on more than 38,000relationships that tests the commitment–trust-mediatedmodel of RM reveals a surprising finding; namely, RMinvestments have a direct effect on seller objective perfor-mance outcomes that is actually greater than the effectmediated by trust and commitment (Palmatier et al. 2006).Although the meta-analysis confirms prior research by pro-viding support for the roles of trust and commitment, itsfinding also suggests that the extant RM model is missingone or more important mediating mechanisms thatresearchers need to understand to appreciate the impact of RM on performance. Similarly, a recent longitudinal studyof interorganizational relationship performance reveals thatseller relationship investments have a direct effect on sellersales performance, unmediated by customer trust, commit-ment, or relational norms, and it suggests that researchersshould investigate “other possible mediating mechanisms(e.g., reciprocity, exchange effectiveness, gratitude)”(Palmatier, Dant, and Grewal 2007, p. 186). Therefore, theprimary focus of this research is to advance RM theory byidentifying and testing an additional mechanism to explainhow RM investments lead to improved performance beyondthe known roles of trust and commitment. This studyaddresses a key question: What other mechanisms makeRM effective at improving seller performance?We propose that gratitude, the emotional appreciationfor benefits received, accompanied by a desire to recipro-cate is an important construct for understanding RM effec-tiveness (Emmons and McCullough 2004; Morales 2005).Relationship marketing investments (e.g., when a seller pro-vides extra effort; adapts policies; and provides small favorsor considerations, such as meals, gifts, or personalizednotes) generate customer feelings of gratitude, which leadto gratitude-based reciprocal behaviors, resulting inenhanced seller performance. Thus, from an RM perspec-tive, both affective (feelings of gratitude) and behavioral(gratitude-based reciprocal behaviors) aspects of gratitude
2/ Journal of Marketing,September 2009
play roles in understanding RM effectiveness. Althoughmarketing research on gratitude is noticeably absent(Morales 2005), many researchers note the importance of the principle of reciprocity for RM (Bagozzi 1995; Houstonand Gassenheimer 1987). However, extant conceptualiza-tions either begin with the reciprocity principle as a startingpoint or suggest that reciprocity norms develop over time todrive behaviors (De Wulf, Odekerken-Schröder, andIacobucci 2001; Wiener and Doescher 1994). Neither of these approaches offers insight into the potentially impor-tant underlying causal element of gratitude, which may beresponsible, at least in part, for observed reciprocatingbehaviors. This argument is consistent with researchers’contention that gratitude represents reciprocity’s “emotionalcore” (Emmons 2004, p. 12).Researchers across many disciplines have recognizedthat after receiving a benefit (e.g., RM investments), peoplefeel an ingrained psychological pressure to reciprocate,such that the act of reciprocating can generate pleasure,whereas the failure to repay obligations can lead to guilt(Becker 1986; Buck 2004; Dahl, Honea, and Manchanda2005). Therefore, people seem to be “hardwired” to repayothers who provide them some benefit through emotionalreward systems. The ubiquitous role of gratitude in howpeople perceive, feel about, and repay benefits gained in theexchange process makes gratitude a prime candidate forexplaining how RM affects performance, beyond the influ-ence of trust and commitment. For example, Komter (2004,p. 195) argues that gratitude is “an imperative force, a forcethat compels us to return the benefit we have received …[and] part of the chain of reciprocity.” The most effectiveRM programs probably tap into this force, resulting in cus-tomer “repayment,” but surprisingly this “imperative force”is not captured in extant theories or models of RM.Overall, this research makes three key contributions.First, we propose and empirically demonstrate that grati-tude is an important missing mediator in the extant RMmodel (Morgan and Hunt 1994), one that influences perfor-mance outcomes beyond the contributions of trust and com-mitment. Indeed, the results demonstrate that only when weinclude gratitude in the RM model, parallel to trust andcommitment, is the influence of RM on performance out-comes fully mediated.Second, we develop a theoretical framework that inte-grates gratitude into the nomological network of RM, andwe empirically demonstrate its effect in two separate stud-ies. A laboratory experiment focused on a B2C contextdemonstrates that RM investments generate feelings of grat-itude (affective aspect), which have a strong influence oncustomers’short-term purchase intentions. A second studyuses a dyadic sample from a B2B context to link customerreports of gratitude-based reciprocal behaviors (behavioralaspect) to seller-reported objective performance data (i.e.,sales revenue) and longitudinal sales growth. Takentogether, these two studies provide insight into the impor-tant role of both affective and behavioral aspects of grati-tude in understanding how RM investments drive seller per-formance. The design of these studies also providespersuasive evidence of the internal validity of the proposedtheoretical model, the external validity of the findingsacross different research and customer contexts, and thecausal linkage between gratitude and future performanceoutcomes.Third, we identify and empirically test both customerand seller factors that leverage the impact of RM invest-ments on gratitude and, ultimately, on seller outcomes,while showing that these same factors do not have equiva-lent effects on trust or commitment. Researchers have sug-gested that the level of felt gratitude depends on many fac-tors related to how the recipient perceives the disposition of the benefit (Morales 2005; Tsang 2006). For example, if thecustomer perceives the benefit as being provided at the dis-cretion of the seller, with a benevolent motive, or with somerisk to the seller, he or she should feel more grateful and bemore likely to reciprocate. By demonstrating that specificfactors leverage RM investments only through gratitude, wehighlight the need to integrate gratitude into models of RMand provide managers with guidelines for delivering RMprograms in ways that enhance performance. In a trust–commitment model that does not incorporate gratitude,these moderating factors would be judged as irrelevant toRM effectiveness (at least empirically).
Conceptual Background ofGratitude
Gratitude is a fundamental social component of humaninteractions that provides an emotional foundation for reci-procal behaviors. Gratitude also has been conceptualized asa force that helps people maintain their reciprocal obliga-tions (Gouldner 1960), a sort of inertia that causes relation-ships to maintain their prosocial orientation (Schwartz1967), and an important link that supports the chain of reci-procity (Simmel 1950). Evolutionary psychologists evenargue that feelings of gratitude, pleasure in reciprocating,and guilt for failing to reciprocate represent well-developed,genetic-based “systems” that support reciprocal and cooper-ative behaviors (Becker 1986; Trivers 1985). Throughmutual giving, people become tied to what has beendescribed as a “web of feelings of gratitude” (Komter 2004,p. 203). For centuries, gratitude has represented an essentialingredient to theories about social relationships and recipro-cal behaviors across a variety of disciplines (Bartlett andDeSteno 2006), which makes gratitude’s absence in RMtheories especially notable.Researchers have identified two key aspects of grati-tude: affective and behavioral. The affective componentrefers to feelings of gratitude generated when people “per-ceive themselves to be the recipient of an intentionally ren-dered benefit” (Emmons 2004, p. 9), a relatively “short-term state” (Ben-Ze’ev 2000, p. 89). Feelings of gratitudegenerate an ingrained psychological pressure to return thefavor. As Becker (1986, p. 73) states, “people everywheredo ‘feel’such obligations…. The mere recognition of abenefit seems to generate a sense of obligation to repay.”The ability to feel gratitude is so ubiquitous to society andcultures that its absence in an individual indicates asociopath (Buck 2004).The behavioral component pertains to the actions stem-ming from feelings of gratitude. Thus, it represents the act
Role of Customer Gratitude in Relationship Marketing / 3
of giving in return, which helps create a cycle of reciprocitybetween giving and countergiving and contributes to theongoing construction of a relationship (Bartlett andDeSteno 2006; Emmons and McCullough 2004). Schwartz(1967, p. 8) argues that the close link between feelings of gratitude and reciprocal behaviors is responsible for therelational strengthening cycle, referring to it as a “continu-ing balance of debt—now in the favor of one member, nowin the favor of another—[that] insures that the relationshipbetween the two continue, for gratitude will always consti-tute a part of the bond linking them.” Becker (1986) alsosuggests that reciprocal transactions are a source of pleasurein and of themselves, independent of how highly the par-ticipants prize the exchange items, which supports theingrained motivating force of feelings of gratitude andgratitude-based reciprocal behaviors.Consideration of both affective and behavioral aspectsis important to understand gratitude’s role in RM. Thus, wedefine the affective aspect of gratitude, or feelings of grati-tude, as feelings of gratefulness, thankfulness, or apprecia-tion for a benefit received. We define the behavioral aspect,or gratitude-based reciprocal behaviors, as actions to repayor reciprocate benefits received in response to feelings of gratefulness (Emmons and McCullough 2003; Morales2005).Few marketing studies have investigated the role of feel-ings of gratitude on customer behavior. Morales (2005)finds that such feelings motivate consumers to reward firmsfor their extra effort and mediate the effects of perceptionsof seller effort on consumer behavior. Similarly, Dawson(1988) indicates that benefits received and the resultantfeelings of indebtedness (i.e., gratitude) provide a signifi-cant motive for charitable giving. Gratitude is essential fortheories from various disciplines regarding how social rela-tionships may be built and preserved (Bartlett and DeSteno2006), though the field of marketing is not alone in itsneglect of the construct in empirical tests. McCullough andcolleagues (2001) note that psychology research eitherignores gratitude or confounds it with other constructs.When included in studies, the measure of gratitude typicallyrevolves around a vocabulary of “thankfulness,” “grateful-ness,” or “appreciation” (Storm and Storm 1987). Emo-tional feelings of gratitude in response to a favor or benevo-lence received are different from the norm of reciprocity, aninternalized social norm that consists of the belief that if someone helps you, you must help them in return, and viceversa (Perugini et al. 2003). Thus, it is important to distin-guish between (1) a person’s behavior in response to nor-mative pressure, which results from being socialized toexpect certain behaviors over relatively long periods of time, and (2) a person’s gratitude-based reciprocal behav-iors in response to his or her emotions and feelings of gratitude.In addition to the limited use of emotional gratitude inmarketing, to our knowledge, no marketing studies haveconsidered the role of gratitude-based reciprocal behaviorson seller performance, though many researchers have dis-cussed the role of “reciprocal behaviors” on the basis of anorm of reciprocity or from a principle of reciprocity per-spective. For example, Bagozzi (1995, p. 275) puts reci-procity at “the core of marketing relationships,” Houstonand Gassenheimer (1987) note that reciprocity turns trans-actions into exchange relationships, and Nevin (1995)places reciprocity at the core of the relationship formationprocess. However, this research typically begins the concep-tual argument with reciprocity, which prevents an under-standing of the theoretical role of gratitude in producing theobserved reciprocating behaviors (Bagozzi 1995; De Wulf,Odekerken-Schröder, and Iacobucci 2001; Houston andGassenheimer 1987).Thus, we propose that viewing feelings of gratitude asreciprocity’s “emotional core” (Emmons 2004, p. 12) offersa theoretical richness that gets lost if we only measure thecustomer’s behavioral outcome without consideration of thepsychological process involved. For example, arguing thatcustomer behaviors are due to a reciprocity principle ornorm, while ignoring the underlying role of gratitude, pre-vents an investigation of (1) the factors that may leverage acustomer’s feelings of gratitude and thus increase the effec-tiveness of RM; (2) the temporal differences between emo-tions and norms, which might lead to “windows of opportu-nity” for higher rates of reciprocation at certain times inthe exchange process; or (3) the underlying mediatingmechanisms.However, if feelings of gratitude resulting from aseller’s RM are relatively short-term emotions that decay,how do these feelings lead to improved long-term perfor-mance? To answer this key question, we investigate RMepisodes or cycles. For example, a customer perceives abenefit from a seller’s RM effort, which generates feelingsof gratitude toward the seller (conscious or unconscious),and in response, the customer takes action (gratitude-basedreciprocal behaviors) to repay the seller. This cycle could“pay off” for the seller in a single episode, but in ongoingrelationships (e.g., typical B2B exchanges), multipleepisodes of RM
feelings of gratitude
gratitude-basedbehaviors accumulate and lead to a lasting improvement inthe seller’s performance.In Table 1, we summarize illustrative articles from ourreview of marketing literature on gratitude and reciprocity,which reveals some important points. First, few studies link feelings of gratitude to a customer’s motives to reciprocateor test factors that may leverage these links. Second, manyconceptual and empirical articles refer to reciprocity or rec-iprocal behaviors as the theoretical basis for RM withoutdelving into the psychological mechanisms that may under-lie reciprocity-based behaviors. Third, only a few marketingstudies explicitly define, measure, or empirically test therole of gratitude or reciprocity. Fourth, no studies theoreti-cally or empirically integrate the affective and behavioralaspects of gratitude into a nomological model of RM.In summary, this review suggests that gratitude repre-sents a likely candidate for the “missing mediator” uncov-ered in a recent meta-analysis (Palmatier et al. 2006). Inaddition, gratitude may provide an explanation of the directeffect of relationship investments on seller performance inthe extant commitment–trust RM model.

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