Nomen Est Omen: Formalizing Customer Labeling Theory
Plangger, K., Kietzmann, J. H., Pitt, L. F., Berthon, P., & Hannah, D. (2013). Nomen est omen: formalizing customer labeling theory. AMS review, 3(4), 193-204.
12 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2014
Date Written: December 17, 2013
Organizations use a variety of labels to refer to their customers — the individuals who use their products and services. These labels (e.g., guests, students, clients, members, patients, users, etc.) suggest different meanings and connotations than being a simple customer. In this paper, we explore traditional labeling theory, and its roots in categorization and semiotic theories, to aid in the understanding of the customer-firm relationship. We then extend and formalize this to a customer labeling theory, in which we posit that a firm’s labels for its customers may shape consumer and organizational attitudes. Therefore, if customers become what marketers call them, then these labels shape the dialog between organizations and their customers. Thus, customer labels indirectly impact the success of firms’ customer relationship management efforts. We discuss customer labeling implications for firms and make suggestions for future academic research.
Keywords: Labeling theory, Customer labels, Customer relationship management, Expectations management, Customer service quality, Psychological contracts, Organizational communication
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