Academic journal article Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration

Buyer-Seller Relationships: Bonds, Relationship Management, and Sex-Type

Academic journal article Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration

Buyer-Seller Relationships: Bonds, Relationship Management, and Sex-Type

Article excerpt

Abstract

Although a key objective of relationship marketing is building strong bonds with customers, there is little empirical research into the antecedents and consequents of relational bonds. Women are increasingly assuming key boundary-spanning roles in organizations, and understanding the extent to which sex differences affect relationship processes and outcomes is an important management issue. This study develops hypotheses linking relationship quality, relational bonds, facets of relationship management, and biological sex, and tests them in the context of buyer-supplier relationships. Social bonds and the relationship-management facets of communication/cooperation and relationship investment were found to be key predictors of relationship quality. Communication/cooperation, relationship investment and relationalism were found to predict social bonds, while relationship investment and relationalism were found to predict functional and structural bonds. Relationship type (male-male, male-female, female-- male, and female-female) was found to have some effect on relationship quality and relational bonds. Post hoc analysis found significant interaction effects between the type of relationship and facets of relationship management.

The management of buyer-seller relationships is recognized as being integral to business success (Wilson, 1995) and can provide a key source of competitive advantage (Day & Wensley, 1983). While there are several views about the nature and scope of relationship marketing (Nevin, 1995), one core objective is to build strong bonds with customers (Cravens, 1995).

Interestingly, the antecedents and consequents of relational bonds remain relatively unexplored (cf. Han, 1992; Mummalaneni & Wilson, 1991).

Recent work by Palmer and Bejou (1995) and Smith and Bejou (1995) suggests that biological sex and/or socialized gender role may have a bearing on working relationships, processes, and outcomes. Although equivocal, research on interpersonal and work relationships suggests that men and women differ, at least in degree, in their relationship management styles, approaches, and values (e.g., Keys, 1985; Riger & Gilligan, 1980; Statham, 1987). These are thought to place a strain on coworker interaction (Devine & Markiewicz, 1990). It is not clear, however, to what extent, if any, sex differences are manifest in the management of buyer-seller relationships. This issue is particularly important since women have increasingly been assuming key management and boundary-spanning roles in organizations over the past two decades (Foster & Orser, 1994), and men and women may have different training requirements to be effective relationship managers.

This study investigates the role of relational bonds in the development of quality working relationships. The effects of biological sex on relationship management, relational bonds, and relationship quality are also explored.

Background

Relationship marketing has been such a dominant, yet undefined, paradigm over the past 10 years that it is difficult to distinguish from marketing, as classically defined (Iacobucci, 1994). This has led to the paradox where considerable research has been conducted on service, consumer, channel, partner, and business-to-business relationships (cf. the special issue of the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 1995), yet relationship marketing is considered to be in the very early stages of its development (Sheth & Parvatiyar, 1995).

Reflective of its early development relationship marketing research has been plagued by a variety of conceptual and methodological issues. There is little agreement on the definition of concepts, how they should be operationalized, or what labels should be attached to them (Wilson, 1995). This has led to the situation where the meanings of many of the concepts deployed in the literature overlap. An unresolved methodological issue is who can or should inform the researcher on the nature, characteristics, and dynamics of the relationship, its parties, their interaction, and their environment. …

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