PURPOSE OF THIS PAPER. The satisfaction-trust paradigm has been recently criticized regarding its ability to deliver positive consumer behavioral outcomes. This study argues that -amongst others- a reason for this unpleasant situation may be the failure of service managers to account for non-linearities in the satisfaction-trust paradigm. DESIGN/METHODOLOGY/APPROACH. The setting for this study has been the super-market retail channel. A total of 942 respondents were “intercepted” in supermarket stores, employing a face-to-face personal interviewing method. For the detection of curvilinear effects the study employed the two-step single indicant method of Ping (1998). FINDINGS. We posit consumer trust as an important intervening variable through which non-linear service evaluation effects translate into word-of-mouth. Findings imply that investing resources in satisfaction programs do not do a good job in building positive word-of-mouth from a point on. Economic value evaluations and trust judgments seem to be both necessary and sufficient conditions for building consumer relationships. RESEARCH LIMITATIONS/IMPLICATIONS. Theoretically, our work extends the relationship marketing research stream suggesting that curvilinear mechanisms are likely present in the well accepted satisfaction-trust paradigm. Limitations of the study relate to the generalization of the findings in other sectors besides grocery retailing and its cross-sectional nature. PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS. The findings of this study suggest that relationship marketing managers would be ill-advised in their investment decisions should they use a linear-only terms trust model. ORIGINALITY/VALUE. This article extends the trust literature in that it investigates whether consumer trust suffers from diminishing returns. Service providers who strive to build long-term relationships with their customers may not do a good job if they continue to invest in trust determinants that present diminishing returns to scale.
- economic value,
- curvilinear mechanisms,
- grocery retailing
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