The Evaluation Process and Its Impact on Decision Making in Exchange Relationships
The small firm, which I will call Partronics, was founded by an engineer who had a good idea. He invented a device that could measure the size of particles in fluids quickly and easily. Costing less than the $15,000, the device could save companies hundreds of thousands of dollars a year by identifying contamination in fuel or lubrication systems. From such information, maintenance personnel could determine quickly and easily when filtering systems were performing poorly. In addition, they could anticipate when breakdowns would occur. The simple theory was that the moving parts in the would reveal excessive wear by shedding particles into the lubricating fluid. The device measured the size of these particles and could predict impending failure. In addition, by changing filters when the contamination reached critical levels, the life of machines (e.g., large diesel engines and electric generators) could be dramatically extended. In sum, the potential market size was in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
A problem existed, however. Customers balked at making the sizeable initial investment required to purchase and install the device. In sum, although Partronics was profitable, its sales were not reaching expectations because too many customers failed to enter into an exchange relationship with the firm. Too many potential exchange partners failed to evaluate the device, and the company that sold it, highly enough to purchase it.
An exchange, such as that between Partronics and its customers, involves "a transfer of something tangible or intangible, actual or symbolic, between two or more social actors" ( Bagozzi 1975a). The "social" actors can be a consumer and a retailer or an industrial buyer and supplier. Researchers have attempted to identify what is exchanged between two people or between two social units (e.g., a person and a firm). Good evidence exists that the "things" or resources exchanged can be placed into six categories. The types of resources exchanged are: goods, services, money, status, information, and feelings1 ( Foa and Foa 1974).
In addition, however, time plays an important role in the exchange process. That is, in many instances resources are exchanged in order to buy or save time. Also,