Why attachment security matters: How customers' attachment styles influence their relationships with service firms and service employees

Martin Mende, Ruth N. Bolton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

61 Scopus citations

Abstract

Relational orientations vary across customers, so marketing activities should be customized to individual customers or market segments. However, little is known about the underlying processes that influence how customers bond with a service firm and its employees. This article explains customer-firm and customer-employee relationships using attachment theory. It provides theoretical and empirical evidence that customers with low levels of attachment anxiety and low levels of attachment avoidance perceive a service firm and service employee more positively-in terms of satisfaction, trust, and affective commitment-than customers with high levels. However, since a service firm and service employee are separate attachment targets, this study also tests whether customers have a similar propensity to bond with both. Insecurely attached customers who find interpersonal bonds with employees deficient, compensate for this deficiency by being more likely to bond with the service firm. Companies that measure customer attachment styles can better segment markets, manage customer relationships, and allocate resources more effectively. For example, customers with low levels of attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance toward the firm are candidates for social relationship programs, whereas customers with high levels of attachment avoidance are likely to be more responsive to financial reward programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-301
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Service Research
Volume14
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2011

Keywords

  • Attachment styles
  • Attachment theory
  • Market segmentation
  • Relationship marketing
  • Satisfaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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