Mastering Meaningful Customer Connections

Authors Harald Pol
Publication date 2017
Research groups Marketing & Customer Experience
Type Doctoral Thesis


Within large service organizations there are currently two trends visible. These trends seem to be diametrically opposed. On the one hand organizations face increasing price pressure and thus a pressure to cut costs. One of the consequences of this trend is that organizations are increasingly encouraging customers to make more use of digital communication channels. At the same time, companies find it important to know their customers in order to respond adequately to their needs. To do this, organizations must have a certain degree of personal involvement to their customers and they must have regular personal contact. It is assumed that both trends – digitisation and personalisation – will have a strong impact on customer experience and (perhaps) on the relational models customers use. If it is true that relational models - so the way in which people perceive and assess a relationship - play a role in the perception of the customer, it is also interesting to know if it is possible to influence these relational models. During the last fifty years much research has been done into the possibilities to influence customers by using subliminal priming techniques. In these techniques thoughts and feelings are unconsciously activated by showing people certain words or images (eg Bargh, Chen & Burrows, 1996; Dijksterhuis, 2005). In recent years a number of experiments were performed in which customers were unconsciously primed at some type of relationship (eg Aggarwal, 2004; McGraw & Tetlock, 2005; Tuk, Verlegh, Smidts & Wigboldus, 2009). These experiments showed that it is possible to activate a certain type of relationship. The experiments however the researchers used scenario’s based on an interpersonal relationship, and often to a fictitious relationship. The question is whether priming techniques also work for an already existing and more complex relationship between an organization and its customers. From 2010-2013 we conducted research for six large service providers in banking, insurance, utilities and social welfare to discover what the customer experience of these organisations, what role relational models played in customer experience and whether it was possible to influence these relational models. The research project has provided answers to the following questions: - Which relational models are used by customers and what is the influence of these models on customer experience? - What is the influence of digitisation in customer communication on relational models and customer experience? - What is the influence of personalisation in customer communication on relational models and customer experience? And finally, - Is it possible to influence relational models (and customer experience) by using specific words and images that are associated with relational models (relational framing)?

Language English
Key words customer experience

Harald Pol