August 15 2017 – Dr. Sheena Lovia Boateng, Director of events and programmes at PearlRichards Foundation, has successfully defended her PhD thesis at the School of Graduate Studies, University of Ghana. She is the first female Ph.D student from the department to have successfully defended her thesis. The thesis was on the topic: Online Relationship Marketing, Online Trust and Customer Commitment in the Ghanaian Banking Industry. Her supervisors were: Prof. Bedman Narteh, Prof. Charles Blankson and Dr. Ernest Y. Tweneboah-Koduah.
The following is a summary of her presentation.
The introduction of online technologies has provided ample opportunities for organisations to leverage on them to build relationships with customers. However, a review of the extant literature indicates a paucity of studies on the subject. This thesis responds to this gap. It seeks to develop a theoretical and practice-oriented understanding of the antecedents and outcomes of online relationship marketing (ORM) of banks in Ghana. To achieve the above purpose, the thesis defined three research objectives as follows. The first objective sought to determine the ORM activities of banks in Ghana. Thereafter, the second objective sought to examine the impact of the ORM activities of Ghanaian banks on three relationship outcomes – customer commitment, online trust and loyalty. The third objective sought to examine the mediating role of customer commitment and trust between the ORM activities of Ghanaian banks and customer loyalty. Through a literature review, four ORM activities were identified for the study, namely, Engagement, Interactivity, Personalisation and Collaboration. It was also established that the Commitment-Trust Theory (CTT), the dominant theory in ORM is able to offer understanding on the link between relationship mediators and relationship outcomes; but is silent on the link between ORM activities (as antecedents), relationship mediators and relationship outcomes. The thesis therefore integrated Signalling Theory with the CTT to propose a conceptual framework, which examined the association between ORM activities, Customer Commitment (Affective, Normative and Calculative), Online Trust and Customer Loyalty. The relationships between the constructs were outlined in 18 hypotheses.
Within the tenets of the critical realism paradigm, the thesis adopted a quantitative approach, which collected data from 429 respondents in Ghana. Ghana was selected because it has gained some mileage in internet adoption, as well as, its subsequent adoption by banks in the country. An exploratory factor analysis was conducted leading to a post-study framework with 15 hypotheses, which excluded four variables: Personalisation, Collaboration, Affective Commitment and Normative Commitment. Thereafter, a structural equation modelling analysis was carried out, which led to the confirmation of seven hypotheses – five direct relationships and two mediating relationships. These research findings yielded a number of conclusions. First, the research concludes that engagement and interactivity constitute the ORM activities conducted in the Ghanaian banking industry. These activities are a function of the nature of internet applications employed in ORM, primary of which are websites and email. As a result, engagement is perceived to be low, whiles interactivity is perceived to be high. Social media, which is considered in literature to be prime for engagement, tends to be the preferred medium for engagement by customers of Ghanaian banks. Yet, most banks still remain undecided about social media.
Nonetheless, the findings suggest that despite the internet applications used in ORM, emitting the appropriate and useful signals to engender online trust and customer loyalty matters more. Online trust and calculative commitment are key mediating variables, which influence customer loyalty. Of the two, online trust matters more. It mediates interactivity and customer loyalty and also interactivity and calculative commitment. Further, the thesis concludes that, in terms of ORM, the Commitment-Trust theory has, perhaps, found its ‘better half’ in the Signalling theory. Their integration makes the proposed conceptual framework opportune for future research. The findings of this study put forth several implications, in terms of theory and practice. Regarding theory, the findings of the study indicate that research on the integration of the Commitment-Trust theory and the Signalling theory in the study of firm-customer relationships within the online context, must be extended to other industries and countries. ORM activities are uniquely developed; thus, their applicability may differ depending on the context within which they are being applied.
Therefore, there is an opportunity for future research to determine the specific ORM activities that are applicable in different contexts, as well as their impact on customer commitment, trust and loyalty. In terms of practice, the findings of the study recommend that organisational managers in addition to the frequent use of emails and websites in relating with customers, must also develop strategies in leveraging social media as part of their ORM tactics. The strategic use of other internet applications besides emails and websites, could open up additional opportunities for building long-term firm-customer relationships online; perhaps through increased personalisation and collaboration.