Purpose – For the benefit of those who want to address gaps in our understanding of business relationships, this paper seeks to conceptually frame investigation into critical interaction episodes that fundamentally strengthen or fatally weaken relationship development. It also considers the importance of non‐critical episodes in business relationships. Particular attention is paid to the enduring yet frequently modified critical incident technique associated with Flanagan. Design/methodology/approach – Episode relationship theory, the qualitative/quantitative debate, and the critical incident technique (CIT) literature are selectively reviewed and critically assessed. Findings – First, because business relationships tend to persist, episode research must advance beyond relationship dissolution studies and progress into investigations of how different types of interactions change relationships. New types of episodes need to be studied, such as the generative, degenerative, and neutral episodes discussed here. Also, functionally distinct characteristic and non‐critical episodes are conceptualized. Second, the methods review suggests that useful qualitative methods deserve more attention. Third, though CIT research is prevalent in the marketing literature, it is at present incompletely adapted to business marketing research and needs development along the lines suggested in this article. Originality/value – The interaction perspective on business relationships is given a dynamic framework at the interaction episode level while keeping the connection to the more macro relationship development models that conceptualize relationship states and processes.
Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing – Emerald Publishing
Published: Apr 17, 2007
Keywords: Business analysis; Critical incident technique; Qualitative methods; Modelling
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