Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Business Administration



Committee Chair

Alan J Bush

Committee Member

Daniel L Sherrell

Committee Member

Emin Babakus

Committee Member

William Moncrief


This study examines the strategic role of interpersonal relationship marketing investments, also known as customer entertainment. There continues to be a growing recognition that relationship marketing can create a competitive advantage for firms that leads to stronger levels of customer commitment, co-creation of value, and mutually beneficial economic outcomes. This study examines an important but often overlooked dimension of relationship building by focusing on how interpersonal bonds can be both created and strenthened in the buyer-seller dyad.Recent research has indicated that expenditures designed to build these types of bonds with individuals who represent the buying firm tend to outperform all other relationship investments, including ones that create structural ties. At the same time, offers of customer entertainment by salespeople runs the risk of being perceived as manipulative in nature, and could therefore act as a deterrent to a strong relationship. Through this analysis, the researcher sought to understand and explain the contextual factors under which this particular type of relationship marketing strategy can be maximized for firms.Through the framework of social exchange theory, this study used a mixed-methods approach to analyze the process by which these exchanges create symbolic benefits for customers. By measuring customer perceptions of the amount of time, effort, and cost invested by the seller, the potential manipulative intentions of the salesperson, and the personal importance of the exchange, the researcher has determined how gratitude can be increased and positively mediate behavioral intentions. Additionally, temporal factors in the exchange process have been considered by manipulating the differeing stages of the relationship. Based on this, interaction effects between the relationship stage and the level of the RMinvestment on customer perceptions of manipulative intent, personal importance, the selling firm's investment, felt gratitude and behavioral intentions have been analyzed. Finally, the potential influence of the customer's level of accountability in the workplace along with their opportunistic intentions on behavioral intentions have been addressed.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.