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What It Takes to Transform Patients into Advocates?
Authors: Rodoula Tsiotsou (UNIVERSITY OF MACEDONIA, Greece)
Word of mouth is a well investigated area in marketing and has been distinguished into negative and positive communications of evaluations of products or services from one customer to another (Anderson, 1999; Singh, 1988). Advocacy is a particular type of word of mouth communication (Harrison-Walker, 2001) that refers to the willingness of the customer to give strong recommendations and praise to other consumers on behalf of a product or service supplier (Fullerton, 2011, p. 93). Advocacy has been proposed not only as a “soft” measure of loyalty but also of customer’s lifetime value. That’s it the value of a customer does not reside only on what he/she buys and how much money he/she spends but also on the ability to bring in profitable new customers (Kumar et al. 2007). Despite the growing acknowledgement of the value of advocacy in services and in health care services, there is limited available research in the literature. Therefore, the purpose of the study is to predict customer advocacy based on customer-based variables. Specifically, the objectives of this research are twofold. First, the study aims to contribute to the services marketing and to the health services literature by identifying key predictors of advocacy in health services. Second, several of the proposed variables have not been used before in the services and health services marketing literature as predictors of customer advocacy (e.g. Customer and Service Provider Responsible Behavior). Thus, this investigation examines the role of these variables in conjunction with other important concepts such as “Service Expertise”, “Information Sharing”, “Accepting Information from Service Provider”, and “Customer Engagement” in predicting Customer Advocacy Behavior. The target population for this research is health service customers (patients). Data were collected from a questionnaire distributed to a convenience sample of a Southeast European country. A total of 460 completed questionnaires were collected. All measures of the study were adapted from previous research. Specifically, Service Expertise and Accepting Information from Service Provider were adapted from Sharma and Patterson (2000). Information Sharing, Customer and Service Provider Responsible Behavior as well as Customer Advocacy were adapted from Yi and Gong (2013). Customer Engagement was measured with 4 items derived from Bettencourt (1997) and Lengnick-Hall et al. (2000). A five point Likert scale anchored by Strongly Disagree (1) to Strongly Agree (5) was used in all measures. Structural Equation Modeling shows the relationships between the variables under investigation as well as their predictability of advocacy. The findings of the study provide significant theoretical and practical implications.