Berry (1980) suggested using the term of “relationship marketing” in order to describe a peculiar relationship between companies and their consumers and later defined it as “attracting, maintaining, and – in multi-service organizations – enhancing customer relationships” (1983, p. 25; cf. Berry and Thompson 1982). In further investigations, the author expressed an opinion that customers prefer to form relationships with people working in companies much better than with products or services which they get from them.
Therefore, “relationship marketing” could be described as a relationship formed between companies’ personnel and their clients. “The reality of customers’ forming relationships with people rather than [with] goods” (Berry 1995, p. 237) therefore needed to be addressed by the companies in the development of their marketing strategies. Webster (1992) marked that successfully applied relationship marketing strategies could undoubtedly bring profits to the company. Relationship marketing in hospitality industry is closely connected with the term “intimacy” which refers to “a . . .
knowledge of the core of something, an understanding of the inmost parts, that which is indicative of one’s deepest nature and marked by close physical, mental, and social association” (Oden 1974: 3). Establishing a relationship can be just the first step in getting a loyal customer for the hotel because the relationship can be ended as the result of mistakes made in future. By being intimate with a customer, knowing all of his likes and dislikes, needs and even dreams, the hotel’s personnel can ensure that the relationship with the customer turns out long-term and enjoyed greatly by both parties.
The hotel employees need to enjoy servicing the customer while the customer needs to enjoy being serviced by the hotel. Intimate relationship in this case means “the bonding of partners who share the belief that they are motivated by considerations of the other’s welfare, not merely their own self-satisfaction” (Levinger and Snoek 1972). Strategy of bonding can be regarded as another strategy of relationship marketing in hospitality industry. Many hotels are currently noticing that retaining existing customers is much more important than acquiring new ones, and therefore bonding with customers is considered very efficient.
Bonding with consumers is “an increasingly popular marketing strategy in which services marketers seek to establish personal long-term bonds with consumers so that current ones may be retained. ” (Stern 1997: 7). Rapp and Collins (1994) mark that “retention is now considered a more cost-effective strategy than continual prospecting for new customers”. Hotels can determine the most efficient tools of establishing a relationship with their consumers analyzing all of the market segments in which their consumers are grouped. Every segment includes consumers which have similar interests.
Even though sometimes consumers in the same segment might have a different type of behaviour, in many cases they are similar. The major factors which influence consumer behaviour include “age, social class, occupation, psychology, life-style, organization, and external ones: geography, culture” (Mercer, 1992, p. 109). Managers of hotels need to ensure that different marketing tools are applied when seeking to build a relationship with different segments of customers because they respond differently to rewards and incentives.
Efficient communication with customers is a very important task which needs to be completed by organisations functioning in the hospitality industry. Nowadays hotels need to ensure that they establish efficient communication not only in regular relations between hotel employees and clients but also relations between consumers and websites of hotels. By improving communication between the customers of hotels and hotel personnel, hotels can expect retaining their customers. By improving the interface and accessibility of websites, hotels can acquire many new customers in new segments of the market.