Customer Empowerment and Satisfaction through the Consultative Selling Process in the Retail Industry

Customer Empowerment and Satisfaction through the Consultative Selling Process in the Retail Industry

Javier Castillo (Universidad San Pablo de Guatemala, Guatemala City, Guatemala) and Babu George (Fort Hays State University, Hays, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCRMM.2018070103
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This article draws insight from the literature to propose a model interlinking key stages in the consultative selling process, customer engagement, and customer satisfaction. It is argued that customer journey should be designed as a process of empowering customers to make the right choices and the role of businesses should be to design and deliver products that meet with needs realized in the consultative process between the business and the customer. Even though this discussion is situated within the context of the retail industry, the findings could possibly be applied in various other customer relationship contexts as well.
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Customer Empowerment plays a key role in improving Customer Satisfaction in retail business transactions, where such perception of empowerment becomes key to attain success. Hunter and Garnefeld (2008) state that when there is a perception of empowerment evoked by a firm (PEEF), there is a positive impact of such empowerment on customer satisfaction among consumers in the retail industry. The same authors also state that empowerment is defined as a positive feeling that results of increasing control and that Customer Empowerment is a “Positive subjective state evoked by increasing control” (p. 1), however, such empowerment is not defined as control. Therefore, such perceived customer empowerment becomes a transfer of power and control to consumers that increase their motivation to participate and succeed in a business transaction attaining a much better feeling of achievement over their expectations (Pranic & Roehl, 2012). The retail industry is constantly looking for ways to satisfy their consumers' expectations of good service and exceed them to increase their satisfaction, making sure that such customers receive an exceptional shopping experience. Providing exceptional shopping experience represents a key competency for developing good relationship with consumers, and at the same time drives companies to attain an improved store loyalty, something that results in customer retention, and consequently, in better financial results (Grewal et al., 2008).

Empowerment in a retail environment can be defined as a way to allow customers to select among different alternatives available in such environment. It is also defined as a force that gives structure to a field of interaction and exchange of free agents (Fuchs, Prandelli & Schreier, 2010). Hence, Hunter and Garnefeld (2008) define customer empowerment (CE) as the way companies give consumers power through access to better information and better understanding, and such definition also addresses the recovery process or the solution of post-sale issues (Pranic & Roehl, 2012).

Furthermore, CE is also defined as an increase of control, but not control by itself, which comes to promote a positive perception among consumers that causes an increase in their satisfaction (Hunter & Garnefeld, 2008; Pranic & Roehl, 2012). Thus, when there is a perception of increased control, not necessarily a real increase in control, the feeling of ownership among consumers is increased and a state of empowerment is promoted, something that may cause a psychological demand effect among them (Fuchs, Prandelli & Schreier, 2010; Hunter & Garnefeld, 2008).

Then, CE is the result of an increase in control that causes a positive perception among consumers, while increasing their satisfaction (Hunter & Garnefeld, 2008; Pranic & Roehl, 2012). Yet, such control is not necessarily an absolute control of the related products or specific situations, is just an improvement on the control perceived by the related consumers and their personal experience (Hunter & Garnefeld, 2008). Hence, retailers and actors, including frontline employees, must promote a state of empowerment to improve CE perception and attain better customers’ satisfaction and financial results (Hunter & Garnefeld, 2008; Pranic & Roehl, 2012).

Consequently, such state of empowerment may promote and positively affect customer satisfaction in a retail business. How such sense of empowerment is promoted in a face-to-face interaction, however, becomes a fundamental piece and is the focus of this research. We seek to determine when the concept of empowerment may be applied in a retailers’ customer journey using the consultative selling process.

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