Staying the Consumption Course: Exploring the Individual Lock-in Process in Service Relationships

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Benjamin Krischan Schulte develops a process-model of consumer lock-in in service relationships by connecting three areas of research: path dependence, consumer behavior and service relationship marketing. He defines consumer lock-in as a situation of a potentially unaware inability to switch from or exit a consumption process due to entrenchment with increasing barriers on the individual and/or social level. Switching barriers are elaborated as consumer lock-in mechanisms. The resulting process model is outlined and empirically examined in an explorative panel study of a service relationship process in higher education. The author's findings support the presence of consumer lock-in in services as an idiosyncratic process of gradual entrapment. The phenomenon has relevance for researchers and practitioners in complex service relationships, where lock-in was found to be a likely occurrence but difficult to grasp.