Why Do They Tell? Antecedents to Consumers' Disclosing Intimacy With Service Employees

EXTENDED ABSTRACT - To be able to initiate and maintain long-term relationships with preferred customers, acquiring information about these individuals is one of the main tasks of any consumer-marketing department. In the personalization of services and one-to-one marketing, the better one knows each customer the higher potential to improve customer value and firm performance (Moon 2000).


Havard Hansen (2002) ,"Why Do They Tell? Antecedents to Consumers' Disclosing Intimacy With Service Employees", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, eds. Ramizwick and Tu Ping, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 105-106.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, 2002      Pages 105-106



Havard Hansen, Norwegian School of Management, Norway


To be able to initiate and maintain long-term relationships with preferred customers, acquiring information about these individuals is one of the main tasks of any consumer-marketing department. In the personalization of services and one-to-one marketing, the better one knows each customer the higher potential to improve customer value and firm performance (Moon 2000).

While information on a number of features can be acquired from computerized systems like POS-terminals and other databases logging the behavior of individual customers, other and more intimate varieties of information can only be collected through direct interaction between individuals. For example, information on covert facets like attitudes and preferences can not necessarily be inferred from behavioral data. Thus, some kind of self-disclosure is often required from the customer if the firm should be able to obtain more intimate covert information

In contemporary relationship marketing and services marketing literature, different strategies directed at cultivating long term loyalty from the customers have been severely researched, and the variables usually found most important include (but are not limited to) benevolence, credibility/reliability, image and satisfaction. However, while variables like these have been shown to influence the customer’s motivation to continue a relationship, to talk favorably about the supplier, and to expand the scope of the relationship, no study has to our knowledge explored the extent to which these variables increase the customers disclosing intimacy. If customer information is of substantial importance to the firm, and increased disclosing intimacy is one means to acquire more information, then studying whether established predictors of other beneficial behaviors also influences intimacy should be warranted. The purpose of this paper is to explore the hypotheses that benevolence, credibility, image and satisfaction all have positive effects on consumers’ self-disclosure.

The data used to test the hypotheses were collected in a telephone survey of retail banking customers. A sample of 2000 customers was drawn from a large banks’customer database. A professional marketing research firm performed the telephone interviews. The final sample consisted of 461 respondents, which corresponds to a 23.1 percent response rate.

All variables were measured with multi-item scales. For the benevolence scale, three items were adapted from Ganesan (1994) while one was self-constructed. The credibility scale was obtained similarly to the benevolence scale. Image was measured with two items adapted from Selnes (1993). The satisfaction scale was constructed by two items adapted from Moorman, Zaltman and Deshpande (1992) and one item adapted from Oliver (1980). Finally, the scale measuring disclosing intimacy consisted of one item adapted from Gupta (1983) and four self-constructed items. In addition to the predictor variables we included the customer’s knowledge of the product category as covariate. The knowledge variable was measured with three items adapted from Park, Mothersburg and Feick (1994).

The data was analyzed by use of structural equation modeling (Lisrel 8.30), since this approach allows the simultaneous investigation of the measures and the hypothesized model. The final measurement model had a chi square value of 105.22 with 51 degrees of freedom, and a p-value of 0.00. The other fit indices were RMSEA of 0.047, a CFI of 0.97, and NNFI of 0.96, which meets the requirements for a well fitting model.

The hypothesized model had a satisfactory ability to explain the observed variance covariance matrix. The chi-square for 51 degrees of freedom was 105.22 (p=0.000), the RMSEA was 0.047, the NNFI was 0.96, and the CFI was 0.97. All of the fit indices are above the cut-offs for good fit. The hypotheses linking benevolence and image to disclosing intimacy was both supported, and the knowledge variable was also found to have a significant effect on disclosure. However, the effects of credibility and satisfaction were not supported by the data. The squared multiple correlations was 0.37 for disclosing intimacy.

The results suggest that benevolent employees with a good image is of superior value to any service firm that pursue higher levels of self disclosure among their customers. The absence of an effect from credibility and satisfaction is surprising, but might be explained bye a status as hygiene factor (credibility) and that satisfaction with the relationship pr se is not extraordinarily enough to invoke self-disclosure.

It is yet to be determined whether the findings are generalizable within and beyond services. Additionally, identifying further predictors and conditions (moderators) that facilitate or impair disclosing intimacy to the service employee are important in order to test and understand the limitations of the model and findings in the paper.


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Havard Hansen, Norwegian School of Management, Norway


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5 | 2002

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