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The meaning of commitment in professional service relationships: a study of the meaning of commitment used by lawyers and their clients

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Several authors have identified the importance of commitment in successful business relationships. However, few studies have considered the meaning of commitment, especially within the context of customer-supplier relationships.

Most studies of commitment within the marketing literature use existing conceptualisations developed within the psychology and organisational behaviour literatures. The purpose of this paper is to explore the meaning of commitment in a customer-supplier relationship context, and to compare this with traditional conceptualisation of commitment.

This study investigates the meaning of commitment used by both lawyers and their clients, within the context of their relationship. The findings show that the meaning of commitment used in professional relationships may be more complex than its traditional conceptualisation and should be extended to include at least three additional components including: 'partnership commitment', 'impression management commitment' and 'personal commitment'. It is argued that it is inappropriate to 'borrow' the conceptualisation of the construct of commitment from other disciplines, without considering the market-based context in which it is used. Implications for professional service relationships include that professionals and clients would benefit from sharing a similar meaning of commitment and this meaning may be influenced by the culture, systems and processes of their organisation.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2007-04-01

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