Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Influence of Product Customization and Supplier Selection on Future Intentions: The Mediating Effects of Salesperson and Organizational Trust

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Influence of Product Customization and Supplier Selection on Future Intentions: The Mediating Effects of Salesperson and Organizational Trust

Article excerpt

As evidenced by the literature, understanding long-term, buyer-seller relationships has emerged as a central topic in the area of interorganizational research. Much of the work in this area suggests that dependence and trust influence the complexion of relationships and future purchase intentions (Andaleep, 1996; Gulati, 1995; Morgan and Hunt, 1994; Swan et al., 1999; Weitz and Bradford, 1999). Dependence establishes a need for building relationships. Trust in these relationships increases the merits of continuing them (Bradach and Eccles, 1989). Acknowledging that trust serves as a cost-efficient solution for exposing dependence (Morgan and Hunt, 1994), we explore the roles of both salesperson and organizational trust in regulating dependence.

Although Bradach and Eccles (1989) and Williamson (1993) suggest that trust mediates dependence and effects the future, with the exception of Morgan and Hunt (1994), little empirical research exists to support this proposition. In addition, trust gains momentum from the party being trusted-the trustee (cf., Moorman et al., 1992; Ring and Van de Ven, 1994). With the exception of Doney and Cannon (1997) and Plank et al. (1999), little attention has been given to the concurrent use of both salesperson and organizational trust. Based on resource dependency theory, we suggest that salesperson and organizational trust serve as governing mechanisms for assessing dependence and as mediators of the effects that dependence has on anticipated future purchases.

Although failing to vary levels of analysis on the part of trustees has been recognized as a potential problem in social science research, the notion has received limited attention in the interorganizational literature. A few notable exceptions, however, include studies by Plank et al. (1999) and Doney and Cannon (1997). Plank et al. (1999) investigated the multi-dimensionality of trust and found that, although product, salesperson, and company aspects of trust were distinct dimensions, salesperson and company trust shared a great deal of common variance. The study by Doney and Canon (1997) looked specifically at differences between trust for a salesperson and trust for an organization. Doney and Cannon not only revealed distinct differences between the two types of trustees, but they also found that trust operates as an "order qualifier" versus an "order winner." Accordingly, trust appears to mediate rather than guarantee the future. Building on these earlier studies, we further compare buyers' perceptions o f sellers as both salespeople and organizations. Arguing that both trust and dependence influence relationships, we propose that salesperson versus organizational trust play unique roles in mediating relations between dependence and future purchase intentions.

In the following sections, we review the literature for modeling future intentions as a product of dependence and trust. We then present research hypotheses, methodology, and findings. We conclude with theoretical and managerial implications and direction for future research.

Literature Review

Dependence and Trust

The relationship literature suggests that dependence and trust play important roles in anticipating the future of interorganizational relationships (cf., Thibaut and Kelley, 1959). Dependency theory emphasizes the need for relationships and proposes that, when restricted to a few suppliers, buyers will be dependent on the suppliers and that the suppliers will enjoy a certain degree of power over the buyers (Pfeffer and Salancik, 1978; Thibaut and Kelly, 1959) that can lead to buyer vulnerability (Williamson, 1985). The trust literature emphasizes the value of trust and mollifies perceptions of opportunism on the part of powerful others (cf., Bradach and Eccles, 1989; Williamson, 1993). Thus, trust reduces the skepticism toward power advantages by stabilizing the relationship and the future. When dependent partners have little reason to trust those in power, as we see in Andaleep's (1996) experiment, the future of relationships appears tentative. …

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