Purpose: The purpose of this study is to develop and examine an integrated mediating model that contains relationship benefits as the relationship antecedents; trust, relationship commitment and gratitude as mediators; and repurchase intention as the relationship consequence in a service business context. Design/methodology/approach: The study recruited 253 respondents to test the proposed model. A partial-least-square-based structural equation modeling was adopted to evaluate the measurement of research constructs and test the research hypotheses that underpinned a proposed conceptual model. Findings: The results show that confidence benefits increase trust more than social and special treatment benefits; social benefits have the most influence on relationship commitment; and special treatment benefits most greatly enhance feelings of gratitude. Thus, depending on the improvement objectives, marketers can accordingly choose the proper relationship benefits as a primary approach. Furthermore, both the direct and indirect effects of confidence benefits and social benefits on repurchase intention were significant. Research limitations/implications: The main limitation of this study is that all research variables were measured at a static point rather than as they were developing. Ignorance of the temporal sequence may incur the concern of possible spurious causal relationship inferences. Practical implications: The study’s findings offer several important implications for service providers, which, in this study, were separated into high (e.g. such as hairdressing, beauty and massage) and low personal contact service groups (e.g. telecommunications and equipment maintenance). First, social benefits are more effective at increasing gratitude in the low personal contact service group, and at boosting trust in the high-contact group. Second, special treatment benefits increase gratitude much more in the high-contact group than in the low personal contact group. Third, gratitude has a much stronger effect on repurchase intention in the high personal contact group than in the low-contact group. Originality/value: The interactions among relationship benefits, mediators (i.e. trust and relationship commitment) and outcomes remain unclear. Although the importance of gratitude as a mediator in relationship marketing (RM) has been shown, little research has examined how relational benefits influence repurchase intention through the combined mediating effects of commitment, trust and gratitude. Therefore, this study advances RM theory by examining the degree of additional explaining power that gratitude contributes to the commitment–trust model. The study also makes a practical contribution by building a research model to understand the nature of mediating roles played by relationship commitment, trust and gratitude in the service industry.
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