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J Acad Mark Sci ; : 1-23, 2023 May 29.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-20240013


Do stronger relationships with customers (customer-company relationships [CCR]) help firms better weather economic crises? To answer this question, we examine firm performance during the stock market crashes associated with the two most severe economic crises of the last 15 years-the protracted Great Recession crisis (2008-2009) and the shorter but extreme COVID-19 pandemic crisis (2020). Juxtaposing the predominant expected utility theory perspective with observed deviations in investor behavior during crises, we find that both pre-crash firm-level customer satisfaction and customer loyalty are positively associated with abnormal stock returns and lower idiosyncratic risk during a market crash, while pre-crash firm-level customer complaint rate negatively affects abnormal stock returns and increases idiosyncratic risk. On average, we find that one standard deviation higher CCR is associated with between $0.9 billion and $2.4 billion in market capitalization on an annualized basis. Importantly, we find that these effects are weaker for firms with higher market share during the COVID-19 crash, but not during the Great Recession crash. These results are found to be robust to a variety of alternate model specifications, time periods, sub-samples, accounting for firm strategies during the crises, and endogeneity corrections. When compared to relevant non-crash periods, we also find that such effects are equally strong during the Great Recession crash and even stronger during the COVID-19 pandemic crash. Contributing to both the marketing-finance interface literature and the nascent literature on marketing during economic crises, implications from these findings are provided for researchers, marketing theory, and managers. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s11747-023-00947-1.