After briefly reviewing the origins of Relationship Marketing, and highlighting the prevalence of studies taking a practitioner viewpoint, this paper justifies the benefits in adopting a customer perspective for further RM fieldwork. Acknowledging the low level of conceptual and theoretical development in RM, it argues in favour of the application of qualitative methods in general and focus groups in particular. The main body of the paper discusses customer-respondent usage of metaphor and anthropomorphisms, drawing on the data from 20 focus groups with customers of 10 prominent firms operating in the East Midlands region of the UK. The paper presents a typology of the metaphors used, and analyses customer anthropomorphism of the firm's gender, distinguishing features and most importantly, their analogies of its relationship to them. The paper concludes that the majority of the metaphors imply a customer perspective on relationships with firms as being confrontational and competitive, rather than mutually beneficial and finishes by discussing the implications of this and the customer perception of their relationships with firms for the academy and practitioners.
- relationship marketing