Value is considered the core of business-to-business marketing, and creating superior value from the customers’ perspective is key to gaining and maintaining a differentiating advantage in an increasingly competitive and price-sensitive business environment. The quest for differentiation has led to both business managers and researchers paying increasing attention to understanding the factors that shape business customers’ perception of value, as well as perceived value’s ensuing influence on long-term business relationships. Despite the growing interest in the concept of customer value creation in most business-to-business industries, the business banking industry seems to be lagging behind. In fact, most of the largest banks in the world (e.g., China Construction Bank, HSBC, Deutsche Bank, Barclays) only refer in their mission statements to value creation for the shareholder, while most banks fail to mention customer value at all. While scholarly articles on customer value have increased within the retail banking industry over the last few years, research specifically within the business banking industry remains limited.
In order to move banks away from a view of value as a way to optimise short-term financial performance, the purpose of this study is to establish the antecedents and outcomes of business banking customers’ perceptions of value with the aim of developing a value creation strategy. The study accordingly develops and tests a conceptual model that depicts a value creation strategy in business banking. This model includes ‘perceived value’ as its central constituent, along with antecedent- and outcome-related variables. In this research, ‘antecedents’ relate to price fairness, perceived price, and service quality, while ‘outcomes’ relate to customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. This research differs from previous research, however, in that it incorporates the multidimensionality of both satisfaction and loyalty to establish how ultimately to secure future revenue through a value offering. Furthermore, this research differs from other research studies in that it was conducted among micro-enterprises – that is, businesses that employ only one to two people – which is an under-researched target group in the value-satisfaction-loyalty literature.
Considering the primary objective set for this study – that is, to establish the antecedents and outcomes of perceived value in business banking – a descriptive research design was employed, and an online, self-administered survey was used to collect primary data from the target population, which was business banking customers who employed only one to two people. The sample of micro-enterprises was drawn through convenience sampling (a non-probability sampling method) from a business customer database provided by one of the largest banks in South Africa. The final analysed sample consisted of 381 micro-enterprises.
Using confirmatory factor analysis to assess the validity of the research model and structural equation modelling to test the hypothesised relationships, the results of the study reveal that price fairness is an important construct to consider in a value creation strategy, as enhanced perceptions of price fairness among micro-enterprises were found to influence both their perceived price and service quality, which in turn influenced micro-enterprises’ perception of value. In fact, perceived price and service quality were established as mediators between price fairness and perceived value in service encounters between micro-enterprises and their banks. The results further reveal that economic satisfaction and non-economic satisfaction are direct outcomes of micro-enterprises’ perceived value, and that attitudinal and behavioural loyalty are indirect outcomes. The findings indicate that while perceived value had the strongest influence on economic satisfaction, economic satisfaction, in turn, did not lead to repurchase intentions (behavioural loyalty). Rather, non-economic satisfaction mediated the relationship between economic satisfaction and behavioural loyalty, indicating the importance of building personal connections and offering an enjoyable service experience in order to drive loyalty behaviours.
This research contributes to theory by being the first to investigate empirically the interrelationships between price fairness, perceived price, service quality, perceived value, economic satisfaction, non-economic satisfaction, attitudinal loyalty, and behavioural loyalty under micro-enterprise business customers. Also, the separation of economic and non-economic satisfaction, and of attitudinal and behavioural loyalty, provides theoretical and managerial insights into how to structure a value creation strategy in the business banking industry to ensure that value is translated into actual purchasing behaviour, resulting in increased revenues and profits for business banks. By specifically conducting this research among micro-enterprises in a developing country that depend on banks for access to finance on competitive terms for their business survival and expansion opportunities, this research further contributes to practice by providing banks with recommendations that, if followed, would ensure that a profitable customer base is retained that can contribute to economic growth and job creation. While the research made several important contributions to both theory and practice, statistically the findings cannot be generalised beyond the scope of this study – namely, micro-enterprises as business customers of South African banks. Future research should address this limitation, and address the other limitations reported in the study. Doing so could make for exciting research possibilities.