Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Marketing (Business Administration)

Document Type



The theoretical and practical importance of relational exchange is well known. However, customers are often annoyed at companies’ relationship building attempts. In addition, the literature has three core problems: (1) the relational concept is not well defined; (2) little research has accounted for relationship dynamics; and (3) relational constructs’ conceptualizations have become ambiguous. The purpose of this dissertation is to build an integrative and comparative framework that not only delineates relationship stages, but also identifies the unique roles of all relational forms (e.g., firm-firm). Specifically, three research questions are addressed: (1) How is a relationship defined? (2) How is a relationship created? and (3) How does a relationship evolve? These research questions are addressed in three essays. Essay 1 develops the relationship definition, creation, and evolution framework based on the field’s 50 most influential articles and validated by survey data from 34 authors. Scholars define a relationship as “at least one interaction with future interactions expected”. Information sharing and cooperation are necessary elements for relationship creation. Correspondence analysis (CA) was used to map 271 constructs to the evolutionary framework. Using data provided from structured interviews, Essay 2 considered one relational form (i.e., customer-retailer) and compared the perspectives of relational parties (i.e., manager, sales-associate, and customer) on the research questions. A relationship is defined as “at least one exchange between parties that share information”. Twenty-one elements are noted as required for relationship creation. Relational constructs were mapped to the evolutionary framework using CA. Essay 3 addressed the relationship evolution question by developing and testing a conceptual model of relational exchange using survey data from 1407 customers in the context of their relationships with a coffee house chain. Respondents were segmented based on their relationship stage, and multi-group moderation analysis was performed. Nine of 41 structural paths are invariant across relationship stages. The essays illustrate the difference in perspectives of academics, practitioners, and customers as it relates to the research questions. Information sharing is noted as a key element of relationships in all essays. Support is also gained for the necessary use of relationship stage as a moderator in relational exchange research.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Black, William C.



Included in

Marketing Commons