The Interplay between Customer Engagement and Customer Power

  • Liliane Abboud

Student thesis: Phd


Customer engagement is increasingly being prioritised by marketing scholars and practitioners due to the positive benefits (e.g. competitive advantage and improved offerings) that it generates for different actors. Recent dialogue has also acknowledged the rise of customer power which is facilitated by technology and interactions occurring between different connected actors. Although several studies have highlighted links between customer power and some engagement manifestations, insights into their interrelationship remain limited and fragmented. Furthermore, the marketing literature primarily focuses on the rise of customer power and positive engagement, whereas experiences of low power and negative engagement both remain underexplored. Recently, the engagement literature has called for further research relating to engagement drivers, engagement valence, disengagement and the dynamic engagement process. Inspired by the wider discussions on power and its outcomes, this doctoral study investigates the interplay between customer engagement and customer power in business-to-customer contexts. It also sheds light on disengagement and its role in the dynamic engagement process. A mixed methods approach was adopted and consisted of two empirical phases. Phase 1 involved an exploratory qualitative study involving 30 semi-structured visual elicitation interviews. Several pictures were used as interview stimuli in order to facilitate the collection of rich data. Subsequently thematic data analysis was conducted using an abductive approach. Results indicated that several drivers contribute to different levels of power and vary according to the actors in the dyad. Findings also highlighted that customer power affects engagement disposition and behaviours. Enhanced insights on the nature of engagement connectedness and the dynamic engagement process were presented, thereby extending existing knowledge on customer engagement and power. Phase 2 utilised a quantitative study involving three scenario-based experiments using a hotel context. Experiment 1 tested the effect of customer power in relation to the firm on engagement disposition and behaviours. Experiments 2 and 3 built on the first experiment and uncovered the role of: (1) customer power in relation to other customers and (2) the type of service setting on the relationship between customer power in relation to the firm and engagement. This study enhances the understanding of customer engagement and disengagement. It sheds light on the relationship between customer power and engagement, thus offering detailed insights on customer engagement and its conceptualisation and dynamic nature. Additionally, this study contributes to the current dialogue on customer power as it examines the drivers of different power levels and their implications for customer (dis)engagement. This research also provides managerial contributions as it encourages practitioners to identify and manage customer power to induce positive firm outcomes. The understanding of the dynamic engagement process and the role of other actors in a service system on customer engagement could help businesses design efficient marketing strategies to foster heightened engagement over time.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJamie Burton (Supervisor)

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