Revisit: RM in Services


Relationship Marketing in Services: Past or Future?, Special issue of Journal of Services Marketing; Deadline 31 Jan 2016

Relationship Marketing in Services: Past or Future?

Special issue call for papers from Journal of Services Marketing

Deadline for full paper submission: 31 January 2016

This special issue aims at reassessing the state of relationship marketing and relationships in contemporary marketing. The rise of relationship marketing was closely linked to the growth of the service sector that was characterized by long-term customer relationships. Consequently, researchers suggested that relationship marketing would represent a paradigm shift in marketing (Grönroos 1994; Gummesson, 1997). Also other factors, such as the established linkages between services and relationships and between customer loyalty and profitability, as well as the technological improvements in identifying and tracking customers, contributed to the growing interest in relationship marketing (Berry; 1995; Chenet, Dagger, and O’Sullivan, 2010, Palmer, Worthington and Dann, 2013; Sheth, 2002). Thus, relationship marketing represented a shift from attracting customers to satisfying and maintaining them, along with other stakeholder groups (Berry, 1995; Payne et al. 2005).

Today, marketing acknowledges perhaps more than ever the existence of multiple relationships and networks of relationships between different actors (Gummesson, 1997; Håkansson and Snehota, 1989; Maglio and Spohrer, 2008), partially due to new technology, partially because of a broader view on the phenomenon of relationships. Although also previous research has acknowledged the existence of multiple stakeholders (Payne et al. 2005) and objects such as brands (Fournier, 1998), technology has brought about new types of relationships that exist between things (e.g. the internet of things), and between humans and digital devices (e.g. cognitive computing such as IBM’s Watson ecosystem).

Relationship marketing has predominantly focused on maintenance, with less attention given to initiation and ending of the relationship. Deeper investigations of how differences in the origination of relationships may effect their development and eventual process of defection are needed (Hollmann et al. 2015). For instance, would further knowledge about the parties’ initial expectations on the relationship provide predictive insights as to its development and eventual ending? While prior research has investigated effects of negative incidents on relationships (Edvardsson et al., 2014), more research is needed also about the long-term impact of positive and negative events on the affected relationship, and their interplay.

Furthermore, relationships have become an asset that can be evaluated indirectly through company stock values, or directly as sellable customer information or contact points. For example, about two-thirds of today’s new cars have sensors and communications systems that send and receive data, offering potential for carmakers to find out more about how drivers use their vehicles (Sharman, 2015). Such data collection system can also lead to creation of vast aggregations of data of customer behavior that could be sold further. For example, Mr. Ian Robertson, board member of BMW, pointed out that advertisers would be interested in information generated automatically by the car, were they able to see "from the navigation system, they’re about to pass a McDonald’s, the car’s been running for three hours and the child’s probably hungry" (in Sharman, 2015). This raises concerns about privacy, control, and the extent to which primary relationships can and should be capitalized on. Consequently, there are a number of new challenges faced by marketers, both when it comes to technology, but also the ethics of relationship marketing.

We believe it is time to reassess what we know – and do not know – about relationship marketing in services and the phenomenon of relationships in general. We in particular raise the following questions:

  • How is technology changing marketing and relationships in services, and what are the new phenomena that services marketers should pay attention to?
  • How can ecosystems be reflected in relationship marketing research? In service relationships? Do relationships play a role in market making and the shaping of new service ecosystems? When are relationships a hindrance?
  • How should relationship initiation be communicated? Would the customer’s initial expectations on the relationship influence the subsequent evolution? What are the successful ending strategies? In times when for example banks have to end loan contracts, how to minimize the negative consequences?
  • The connection between relationship marketing and financial gains is likely to be increasingly more complex today than before – a customer may be an adamant fan but never make purchases. How to measure and alleviate this?


Submissions can be conceptual or empirical in nature, approached from marketing and business management perspectives. A variety of empirical approaches are acceptable (e.g. ethnographic, survey, experimental or archival research), as are insights form different parts of the globe. The main criterion is that the submission has original value.

Suggested topics include:

Revisiting the Phenomenon of Relationships

  • The nature and role of relationships and relationship marketing
  • Logics and mental models
  • Service in relationship marketing
  • Methodologies for studying relationships
  • Future and emerging topics in relationship marketing
  • Social media, mobile phones and virtual service relationships

Relationship management

  • Return on Relationships (profitability) and relationship productivity
  • Relationship sales
  • Initiation, maintenance and dissolution of relationships
  • Relationship communication
  • Networks and many-to-many relationships
  • Dark side of relationships

Relationship themes and aspects

  • Digital and community relationships
  • Brand relationships
  • Sustainability and ethics
  • Emotions in relationships
  • Relationship dynamics

Papers must conclude with well-supported research directions, trends or opportunities which contribute to the development of a vibrant culture of service(s) marketing research.


All manuscripts submitted must not have been published, accepted for publication, or be currently under consideration elsewhere.

Manuscripts should be submitted in accordance with the author guidelines available on the journal home page at

All submissions should be made via the ScholarOne online submission system and should be made to the special issue which is identified on the submission site.

Please direct any further inquiries to the editors, listed below.

Expected publication: Vol 30 (7) October 2016

Key dates

31 January 2016 – deadline for submissions
20 April 2016 – Authors notified of initial outcome (rejection, revision)
7 June 2016 – authors advised of final outcome (accepted/rejected)

Guest Editor contact details

Assistant Professor Johanna Gummerus
HANKEN School of Economics

Ph.D. Catharina von Koskull University of Vaasa

Associate professor Christian Kowalkowski Linköping University

– See more at:


Berry, L. L. (1983). Relationship marketing. In Berry L. L., Shostack, G. L. & Upah, G. (Eds.), Emerging Perspectives on Services Marketing, American Marketing Association, Chicago, IL.

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Chenet, P., Dagger, T. & O’Sullivan, D. (2010), “Service Quality, Trust, Commitment and Service Differentiation in Business Relationships”, Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 24, No. 5, pp. 336-346.

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Palmer, A., Worthington, S. and Dann, S. (2013), Relationship marketing: Exploring the value of loyalty. In: Fisk, R. P., Russell-Bennett, R. and Harris, L. C. Serving Customers: Global services marketing perspectives, Tilde Publishing, Australia.

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Sharman, A. (2015), BMW sounds alarm over tech companies seeking connected car data, Financial Times, January 14, 2015. Retrieved from

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