Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to specify and test factors surrounding relationship strength between buyers and suppliers in a global, business‐to‐business (B2B) services context. In so doing, the paper helps extend relationship marketing theories to this under‐researched domain. Design/methodology/approach – A literature review, along with results of field interviews and surveys, provide a conceptual framework for the relationship strength formation process in the context of multi‐cultures. The research then tests a model of hypothesized relationships using structural equation modeling. Findings – The paper confirms the influence of perceived value, switching costs and relationship quality (satisfaction, trust and affective commitment) on relationship strength. As predicted, relationship quality mediates the influence that perceived value has on relationship strength. Switching costs further mediate the influence that relationship quality has on relationship strength which, in turn, influences substitution scarcity. No support, however, was offered for the proposed moderating influence that national culture (as measured by a buyer's country masculinity and individualism) has on quality/strength linkages and value/strength linkages. Research limitations/implications – The sample of buyers in 42 countries includes a higher share of buyers from individualist than collective countries. Consequently, a more balanced cultural sample may have supported the otherwise rejected proposition that culture has a moderating impact on relationship building. Practical implications – The study provides managerially relevant (“actionable”) results which may help buyers execute customer retention strategies that lead to higher customer profitability. Originality/value – This study adds to the limited literature on building B2B service relationships in a global context. The paper seeks to provide a balanced account of the social and economic aspects of relationship strength formation.
Journal of Services Marketing – Emerald Publishing
Published: Apr 25, 2008
Keywords: Relationship marketing; Culture; Services marketing
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