Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Management and Marketing


The motivation for this study was to address the problem that Australian SME professional-service providers in the personal financial-planning industry have in enhancing their clients’ perception of their relationship and their commitment to it.

The overall objective of this thesis was to develop and empirically test a proposed model that explains the roles and impact of interpersonal communication effectiveness, service quality and trust on client relationship commitment from a client perspective, in the context of SME financial-planning professional services. More specifically, the study provides an understanding of how the three proposed sub-constructs of interpersonal communications effectiveness (ICE) interact with trust and service quality, and examines the impact of these key mediating variables on client relationship commitment. This thesis will argue that interpersonal communication effectiveness is a key construct that SME personal financial planners can use to enhance clients’ perception of service quality and to build trust with the overall goal of retaining their clients’ commitment to the relationship and to the planner’s business.

Previous research in this area had used a broadly defined constructs approach in their modelling. Whilst this approach identified which constructs were involved, it was of limited benefit to practitioners who wanted to apply this new knowledge, and may have contributed to very limited identification and recognition of important “soft” factors. This study takes a different approach to the analysis of the interpersonal communications effectiveness, trust and service-quality constructs thought to be important in explaining relationship commitment. Instead of adding more constructs, as has been the traditional approach, this thesis makes both theoretical and practice contributions by breaking down these broad constructs into their dimensions and treating these as sub-constructs to develop a new and more comprehensive model. This approach provides much-improved diagnostic and explanatory power.

The proposed model was comprehensively analysed using structural equation modelling (SEM) techniques both for confirmatory factor analysis and for testing the structural model itself. The use of SEM (which tests the relationships between constructssimultaneously and takes error into account) offers worthwhile improvements in analysis power over older approaches, such as exploratory factor analysis and multiple regression analysis, used in many of the earlier studies.

This study makes additional contributions to theory development by developing and testing new measurement scales for the sub-constructs of interpersonal communications effectiveness (information provision, communication style and social dialogue), service quality (process quality and outcome quality) and trust (credibility trust and benevolence trust). These new measurement scales are validated, assessed for reliability and tested before using them to test the proposed model.

Important contributions for professional-services practitioners are made by not only giving them an insight into the linkages between the sub-constructs, but also by providing the direction and the strength of these interactions. Knowing the direction, significance and strength of these linkages provides never-before available information on which to base business and marketing strategies.

The results of this thesis provide insights to help solve the professional-service provider’s problem with their client relationships and highlights the strong importance of “soft” factors in such interpersonal business relationships, which had been widely ignored in previous research.

FoR codes (2008)

1503 BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT, 1505 MARKETING, 150502 Marketing Communications



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.