Researchers in marketing have taken an interest in the simple but powerful idea that good marketing management requires the building of long-term relationships (Houston and Gassenheimer, 1987). Consequently, long-term relationships and similar concepts such as alliances and partnerships have begun to be carefully examined (Anderson and Weitz, 1989, 1992; Anderson and Narus, 1990; Dwyer, Schurr and Oh, 1987; Heide and John, 1990; Spekman, 1988; Lorange and Roos, 1991). It is important to focus on the long-term relationship because of its implications for access to markets, generation of repeat purchase, creation of exit barriers, and the view that it benefits all parties.
Business relationships are forged in the dynamic milieu of many variables. Essentially, however, received theory suggests that a firm establishes a relationship with another because it needs the other firm to achieve desired goals (market expansion, profits, etc.). These needs lead to dependence which is considered to be central to explaining channel sentiments and behaviors. Although dependence is important, it is proposed that there is a qualitative difference in the nature of the dependence relationship with and without trust. This difference can influence channel members' sentiments and behaviors in important ways (Andaleeb, 1995).
Specifically, this study examines the effects of a party's perceived trust and dependence in its relationship with another party to explain two behavioral outcomes of exchange relationships - satisfaction in and commitment to the relationship. Satisfaction has been regarded as an important component of exchange relationships by various researchers (Crosby, Evans and Cowles, 1990; Dwyer, 1980; Frazier, 1983; Robicheaux and El-Ansary, 1985; Stern and Reve, 1980). It can affect channel members' morale and consequent intentions to participate in joint activities (Schul, Little and Pride, 1985). Hunt and Nevin (1974) extol the positive implications of satisfaction by indicating that it leads to higher morale, greater cooperation, fewer terminations of relationships, fewer lawsuits, and lower likelihood of seeking protective legislation. Lusch (1976) indicates that satisfaction reduces intra-channel conflict and promotes greater channel efficiency. Ruekert and Churchill (1984), however, suggest that despite the importance of satisfaction in exchange relationships, it remains a primitive construct which marketing scholars have not addressed effectively. Similarly, Schul et al. (1985) indicate that little is known about the full range of possible determinants of channel member satisfaction.
Commitment has also been considered to be important to a business relationship (Dwyer et al., 1987; Lund, 1985; Scheer and Stern, 1992). According to Anderson and Weitz (1992), it fosters cooperation between independent channel members and enhances mutual profitability. It also provides greater access to market information for manufacturers and reduces distributor interest in promoting competitive brands. Gundlach, Achrol and Mentzer (1995) indicate that commitment is an essential ingredient of successful long-term relationships.
Given the importance of satisfaction and commitment in marketing channels, this study examines the effects of trust and dependence on these variables. First, the theoretical rationale and hypotheses are presented. The research method is explained next, followed by the results and conclusions.
II. THEORETICAL RATIONALE AND HYPOTHESES
Dependence and its counterpart, power, are regarded by many theorists as central to explaining organizational or interpersonal behaviors (Morgan and Hunt, 1994; Thorelli, 1986). Dependence is defined here as the degree to which a target firm needs the resources provided by the source firm to achieve its goals. In marketing channels, resource dependence theory characterizes channel relationships as a set of power relations based on the acquisition and exchange of economic resources. When a channel member controls resources that other channel members want or need, it acquires power which enables it to exert influence over other members to explain behavioral and economic outcomes of exchange (Emerson, 1962; Pfeffer, 1981).
It is important to consider, however, that all dependence relationships are not likely to exhibit similar characteristics. Some of them develop into long-term relations characterized by satisfaction and commitment. Others may be characterized by low satisfaction and weak ties that are likely to be severed at the first opportunity.
These differences may be explained by the level of trust that exists in the relationship. This is because with trust, outcome expectations can be reliably predicted that makes one feel secure in the relationship. When trust is lacking, these expectations become uncertain. As the lack of trust of one party in another deepens, the dependence relationship tends to lose meaning because the focal party's needs are no longer assured of being fulfilled. As a result, dissatisfaction in and disintegration of the relationship becomes a distinct possibility. Apparently, trust plays a key role in defining the dependence relationship. Consequently, the trust concept is briefly examined first.
Trust has been defined in different ways. In social science, trust has been construed predominantly in terms of one's beliefs about the motives or intent of another party (Blau, 1964; Butler and Cantrell, 1984; Pruitt, 1981; Rempel and Holmes, 1986). For example, Luhmann (1979, p. 42) indicates that "one fundamental condition of trust is that it must be possible for the partner to abuse the trust; indeed it must not merely be possible for him to do so but he must also have a considerable interest in doing so." Similarly, Gambetta (1988) suggests that trusting involves future contingencies in which the partner, in whom trust is bestowed, has a certain degree of freedom to disappoint the expectations of the trusting party. Morgan and Hunt (1994) conceptualize trust as existing when one party has confidence in the reliability and integrity of the exchange partner. Ring and Van De Ven (1992) also see trust as a partner's confidence in the other's goodwill. When a party has confidence in its partner's goodwill it should be willing to bestow its trust and vice versa. Based on these views, trust is defined here as the willingness of a party to rely on the behaviors of others, especially when these behaviors have outcome implications for the party bestowing trust. Trust bestowal is preceeded by the focal party's belief that the partner's actions will lead to favorable outcomes. This definition is consistent with the literature; it also reflects a conative perspective (i.e., the willingness to bestow trust) in addition to the cognitive perspective (i.e., trust as a belief).
Interestingly, most studies have not considered the effects of trust and dependence separately (Etgar, 1976; Kale, 1986; Keith, Jackson and Crosby, 1990). In these studies, it may have been implicitly assumed that dependence relations are characterized by …