Understanding and managing customer relational benefits in services: a meta-analysis

  • Dwayne D. GremlerEmail author
  • Yves Van Vaerenbergh
  • Elisabeth C. Brüggen
  • Kevin P. Gwinner


Recent meta-analyses provide clear insights into how service firms can benefit from relationship marketing, whereas investigations of customers’ relational benefits (1) are unclear about the absolute and relative strengths by which different relational benefit dimensions induce different customer responses and (2) have not simultaneously examined the various mediating processes (including perceived value, relationship quality, and switching costs) through which relational benefits reportedly affect customer loyalty. To consolidate extant research on the benefits of relationship marketing for customers, this meta-analysis integrates 1242 effect sizes drawn from 235 independent samples across 224 papers disseminated in the past two decades. The results reveal that all three relational benefits affect loyalty, though confidence benefits and social benefits have the strongest effects. Among the three identified mediation paths through which relational benefits influence customer loyalty, the sequential path through perceived value and relationship quality is the strongest. From a service research perspective, this study provides novel empirical generalizations; managerially, the findings suggest that a primary goal for service managers should be strengthening confidence and social benefits.


Relationship marketing Relational benefits Customer loyalty Meta-analysis Confidence Social benefits Special treatment 


Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (DOCX 121 kb)


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Copyright information

© Academy of Marketing Science 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Marketing, College of BusinessBowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA
  2. 2.KU LeuvenBrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Maastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Kansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

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