An interpersonal approach to modelling business-to-business relationship quality

Vieira, Armando Luis (2008) An interpersonal approach to modelling business-to-business relationship quality. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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In the last two decades, we have been watching a dramatic change in the nature of buyer-seller relationships. Relationship quality (RQ) is nowadays seen as the source of superior performance and competitive advantage, rather than service quality and/or customer satisfaction. As firms move towards closer, more collaborative relationships, the role of relationship managers as marketers is increasingly vital to organisational success. Despite the crucial role that relationship managers play in building business-to-business (B2B) RQ, very little research has looked at the key constructs of inter-organisational RQ from an interpersonal approach.

Using both qualitative and quantitative approaches, this study aims at contributing to a better understanding of the nature, determinants, and dimensions of RQ. Particular attention is paid to developing and testing a B2B RQ model from an interpersonal perspective. In response to a gap identified in the literature, which draws primarily on buyer only perspectives, the exploratory, qualitative phase of this study was conducted from a dyadic perspective, thereby providing a stronger conceptualisation of RQ and its determinants and dimensions. A combination of literature with a series of semi-structured interviews with representatives of hotels operating in Portugal and their corporate clients helped inform the development of a RQ model which was subsequently tested through structural equations modelling. For the main survey, the unit of analysis was the relationship of the dyad, as perceived by the client, and 948 client representatives provided their perceptions of their relationship with their counterparts in hotels, yielding a 40.7 percent response rate. Goodness-of-fit estimates provided strong support for the model. All but one of the suggested research hypotheses were supported and the amount of explained variance by the proposed determinants was acceptable. Three alternative models were analysed and rejected in favour of the proposed model.

Findings highlighted the importance of social bonds, which seem to promote contractual bonds and have a positive impact on perceived RQ, likelihood of recommendation and expectation of future contact. If social bonds are able to encourage repeat business and loyalty, then they may influence overall profitability. This research also expanded the empirical research on RQ by submitting its key constructs to a rigorous, quantitative test, this way contributing to narrow another gap in the literature, which refers to the existence of some consensus on building blocks of RQ such as commitment, satisfaction and trust, but not on their connections in the model. In addition, results emphasised customer orientation as a building block of RQ. This, in turn, draws the attention to the importance of including in the design of firms' strategies the careful selection, training, and motivation of (designated) relationship managers, the 'face' of the organisation, in order to maximise the performance of organisations in building B2B RQ. By focusing on relational drivers, this study responds to the lack of research on the interactive characteristic of RQ, i.e. buyer-seller interactions primarily in a person-to-person communication, and suggests theoretical and managerial guidelines regarding the social level in the governance of business relationships.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Ennew, Christine T.
Winklhofer, Heidi
Costa, Carlos
Keywords: Business-to-Business, Relationship Marketing, Relationship Quality
Subjects: H Social sciences > HF Commerce
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 10527
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2008
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2017 09:50

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