Service relationships and the customer disengagement - engagement conundrum

Jana L H Bowden*, Mark Gabbott, Kay Naumann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract: Emergent research on customer engagement has focused on enhancing engagement within service relationships. Less attention has been given to how and why customers disengage from their relationships, and the potential interplay between engagement and disengagement has not yet been explored within the marketing literature. This study presents the findings from a qualitative exploration of the concept of customer disengagement, its initiating triggers, nature and the process by which it unfolds within functional/utilitarian (F/U) and participative/co-creative services (P/C). Rather than being mutually exclusive, it finds that engagement and disengagement are highly connected and that prior levels of engagement significantly influenced customers’ subsequent propensities to disengage. Specifically, customers’ propensity towards disengagement was higher within services considered F/U in nature and lower within services of a more P/C nature. In addition, the extent to which customers disengaged from their relationship was strongly determined by their prior levels of engagement with weak engagement for F/U services and strong engagement for P/C services. Relationships in the F/U category were subsequently transactional and volatile when compared to relationships within the P/C category that were comparatively emotionally bonded and enduring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)774-806
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Marketing Management
Issue number7-8
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2015


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