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Managing Business-to-Business Relationships: An Emerging Model

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During the last twenty years a number of researchers have addressed the issue of relationship management in business to business (B2B) markets (Fiocca 1982, Campbell and Cunningham 1983, Shapiro et al 1987, Krapfel et al 1991, Olsen and Ellram 1997, Turnbull and Zolkiewski 1997). All of these have postulated that portfolio theory is a useful theoretical approach to the analysis, categorisation and management of supplier-customer relationships. Despite this, there has been relatively little empirical research reported that informs other researchers, academic or managerial, about the reality of relationship management. It is currently not clear what methods companies actually use for managing relationships or whether they include a formal, academic system. At the moment it is not known how systems for managing relationships, academic or otherwise, are physically put into practice within companies. Turnbull and Topcu (1994), Yorke and Droussiotis (1994), Zolkiewski and Turnbull (2002) have presented interesting research studies and discussion on the academic theories but further research and discussion is needed to give additional insight into the challenges of relationship management in practice. In this paper we report on:

• Whether the concept of relationship management is being adopted among British companies

• What kind of systems are used

• The nature of the criteria used by managers for analysing relationships

• An emerging model for the management of B2B relationships

The findings of the research indicate that the great majority of companies sampled have some form of relationship management system but of varying degrees of formality. About two thirds have implemented a formal, documented system based on "hard" data, but 90% also rely on subjective and informal analysis. We also find that buyers are more likely to have a formal, documented system than suppliers; who tend to depend more on personal judgement in their interactions with customers. The information used for relationship management system and judgement varied widely between companies and was different from that proposed in the portfolios postulated in academic literature. Based on the literature review and qualitive research data we suggest a 'new' way of undertaking and managing customer relationships in business market. It is imperative to note the caveat that becomes of the relatively low response rate achieved in the quantitive based experimental research, all findings are necessarily tentative.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-09-01

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