بررسی مفهوم عدم تقارن: نوع شناسی برای تجزیه و تحلیل روابط مشتری تامین کننده
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|21107||2008||13 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||محاسبه نشده|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Industrial Marketing Management, Volume 37, Issue 4, June 2008, Pages 471–483
In seeking to understand relationships between smaller suppliers and larger customers, there is a growing interest in examining the characteristics of asymmetry in relationships. However, there is a paucity of research that looks at the consequences of size asymmetry for smaller suppliers. Building on IMP (Industrial Marketing and Purchasing Group) research, this paper presents a typology for analysing the consequences of size asymmetry in customer–supplier relationships from the smaller supplier's perspective. The paper reports on the findings from a study involving a total of 48 interviews and eight in-depth case studies of suppliers in the UK textile industry involved in relationships with larger customers. The findings from the study show that the consequences of size asymmetry may vary widely across different relationship characteristics, with both positive and negative outcomes for suppliers. The implications of these findings are that suppliers may take advantage of the positive and constructive consequences of size asymmetry to capitalise on developing their current relationships with customers. In addition, by focusing on the positive consequences of size asymmetry, suppliers may develop the confidence and assurance to develop constructive and more balanced new customer relationships. The paper concludes by identifying the managerial implications for the development of opportunities and customer relationship options for suppliers in asymmetric relationships and proposes that it is important for suppliers to have an assessment instrument to identify the extent of asymmetry or symmetry across their customer relationships.
Recent research suggests that asymmetry in relationships may present suppliers with an array of problems. These problems range from managing operational issues in joint ventures, to developing trust or commitment in long-term relationships (Söllner, 1998, Chen and Chen, 2002 and Blomqvist, 2002). Several researchers of business relationships have highlighted that prevailing models and classifications do not adequately capture the complex balance of characteristics in customer–supplier relationships (Holmlund, 2004 and Halinen, 1994). Understanding the characteristics of their asymmetric relationships may therefore enable suppliers to have a clearer picture of their situation, so that they can set development priorities for their relationships and find ways of managing problems associated with asymmetry (Ford & Saren, 2001). Customer–supplier relationships in the UK textile industry have often been characterised as asymmetric, involving large and powerful customers and smaller, less powerful suppliers (Lorenzoni and Baden-Fuller, 1995 and Harrison, 2004). Studies of asymmetry in these relationships have often focused on the situation of the larger, stronger customer and its positioning advantages in relationships. For example, recent research has shown how Marks and Spencer in the UK has unilaterally managed its relationships with smaller suppliers (Harrison, 2004). Smaller suppliers consequently face problems in sustaining their asymmetric customer relationships, or developing new relationships in such circumstances. But, there appears to be little existing research in the IMP (Industrial Marketing and Purchasing Group) school on the consequences of asymmetry for small suppliers in their relationships with larger customers. Researchers have often used the relative difference in firm size between a supplier and customer as a proxy for asymmetry and have shown that these differences may be indicative of potential problems in relationships. For example, research has highlighted that smaller suppliers may have little option but to follow the stipulated relationship norms of a larger customer if they wish to retain the relationship (Holmlund & Kock, 1996). Furthermore, it may be difficult for smaller suppliers and larger customers to develop a mutual orientation towards their relationship when the demands of the supplier and customer's businesses vary significantly (Chen & Chen, 2002). Thus, it is likely that there would be differences in the approaches of smaller suppliers and larger customers towards developing the relationship. Smaller firms may become specialised into narrow confines of relationships with larger customers and may become a ‘hostage’ to a particular customer. Hence, a smaller supplier may have to give up its individual goals for the benefit of maintaining a relationship with a single larger customer. The perceived need to invest in relationship-specific goals to retain an important customer may tend to reduce a supplier's strategic flexibility (ibid.). However, smaller suppliers may also be compensated for their ‘sacrifices’ and efforts within relationships by gaining opportunities to forge stronger positions and new indirect relationships through larger customers ( Blomqvist, 2002). Thus, there appears to be a trade-off between the investments made by suppliers in different aspects of their asymmetric relationships and the potential gains that may be achieved in other areas of their relationships. Research on asymmetry in relationships has tended to examine the connection between an imbalance in size and other single relationship dimensions. For example, Gundlach, Achrol, and Mentzer (1995) and Söllner (1998) looked at the link between asymmetry in size and power, commitment or dependence, whilst Holmlund and Kock (1996) examined the link between asymmetry in size and knowledge and the initiation of change. Few studies have explored asymmetric relationships across more than one or two conventional relationship characteristics. However, an examination of single relationship characteristics does not adequately capture the full complexity of developing and managing asymmetric customer–supplier relationships (Holmlund, 2004). This paper explores the link between asymmetry in size and other characteristics of customer–supplier relationships. Difference in size between firms is used as a proxy for asymmetry in this research by examining relationships where there is a difference in size in terms of number of employees of the entire organization between smaller suppliers and their larger customers. We have chosen to explore the multi-dimensional nature of the characteristics of asymmetric relationships by examining situations of size asymmetry between smaller suppliers and larger customers within a chosen set of relationship characteristics identified from the literature. The chosen characteristics are not examined in terms of their inter-relationships, but are explored as a set of characteristics of relevance in studying asymmetric relationships. The characteristics, although not exhaustive, were derived from the literature and selected on the basis of their importance in previous studies of asymmetric relationships. The relationship characteristics and their importance in understanding asymmetry will now be discussed.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Our theoretical discussions and the findings from the empirical study have contributed to evolving discussions on asymmetry in relationships from an IMP perspective. The findings from this research indicate that asymmetry in relationships is multi-faceted and that the consequences of asymmetry may vary widely across different relationship characteristics, with both positive and negative consequences for suppliers. Our contribution is the addition of insights into the nature of the dynamics of symmetry and asymmetry in customer–supplier relationships. This paper has identified some of the consequences of size asymmetry for suppliers in relationships with larger customers and has built on the work of previous IMP researchers (Ford et al., 1986 and Blomqvist, 2002). In this paper we have examined asymmetry in customer–supplier relationships, with particular emphasis on identifying how suppliers can cope with and better manage the consequences of size asymmetry. The study therefore raises important issues for furthering conceptual developments and empirical investigations to add to our understanding of asymmetry in relationships within the IMP tradition. In conclusion, the main reflections on the literature gained from the exploration of asymmetry across the relationship characteristics of the suppliers and their larger customers are presented. The findings concerning mutuality indicated that many smaller suppliers had similar goals to their larger customers, and that both parties would be prepared to adapt for the sake of the long-term development of the relationship (Ford, Gadde, & Håkansson, 2003). The findings also support the work by Håkansson and Snehota (1995), who suggested that the norms of behaviour in a relationship are often characterised by bonds between companies which become stronger over time as they familiarise themselves with each other. Smaller suppliers frequently offered particularity as a means of attempting to secure their relationships with important larger customers, when faced with situations where their customer portfolios were limited and rationalisation was taking place in their networks. Thus, they effectively excluded themselves from other relationships at times when customer development could be most critical. Our findings can be related to the work of Håkansson and Snehota (1998) which suggests that particularity in relationships may preclude the involvement of other parties, and the commitment of resources to these relationships may make it unfeasible to pursue others. Thus, particularity may appear an attractive proposition for firms, but in reality it may not be the best relationship ‘fit’ for most firms. Conflict could be a destructive rather than constructive force, and be instrumental in undermining the confidence of smaller suppliers in their larger customer relationships. Thus, it appears that smaller supplier–larger customer relationships may be particularly susceptible to the dysfunctional effects of conflict, especially in situations where there are few higher-level actors from the supplier firm involved in customer relationships. Conflict may be interpreted in terms of the perceptions of history and expectations of the firms in the relationship (Vaaland & Håkansson, 2003). Thus, the involvement of higher-level actors from smaller suppliers in conflict resolution with larger customers appears important in creating a measure of social equality between customer and supplier and in overcoming the impact of any negative perceptions and expectations associated with the history of the relationships. The findings are consistent with previous work on interpersonal inconsistency that have suggested that messages, such as wishes or intentions, passed to the other party in a dyadic relationship may lack clarity and create ambiguity (Ford et al., 1986). Interestingly, the findings differed from those of Alajoutsijärvi, Möller, and Rosenbröijer (1999) who suggested that high-levels of interpersonal inconsistency may be evident in situations where a variety of firms, units, and departments are involved, each with their own agendas and roles. In the relationships in this study there tended to be limited variety in the people, units and departments involved in the interactions, often as a result of limited personnel in smaller supplier firms, and restricted access for suppliers to personnel within larger customer firms. Indeed, contrary to previous findings, inconsistency appeared to be less evident in cases where there was large and varied dedication of human resources to larger customer relationships. This meant that a range of personnel from different levels of the supplier would be better able to deal with, or limit, misunderstandings or problems with larger customers as they arose. Experience of co-operation and an understanding of the procedures and formalities of developing co-operative projects were important in facilitating more co-operation for smaller suppliers. This finding differs from the work of Axelrod (1984) and Bengtsson and Kock (2000), who have suggested that the extent to which formalisation of co-operation occurs tends to be viewed as less critical in relationships than the evolution of co-operation within a relationship over time. So, formalisation within specific co-operative projects (rather than all aspects of the relationship) involving suppliers and customers may be critical in supporting further co-operation for smaller suppliers in relationships with larger customers. In smaller supplier–larger customer relationships there are often few opportunities for extending the scope of contact and resource exchange. However, longstanding involvement between a smaller supplier and larger customer may facilitate the development of established and commonly understood patterns of contact, contributing to reducing ambiguity and misunderstandings. In addition, more balanced patterns of contact appear achievable when a large number of customer-facing staff in a supplier firm are dedicated to maintaining contact with larger customers (Geser, 1992). One of the most striking themes across the case studies was the technological power of suppliers, enabled by their specialist technical knowledge and application of technology in new products and projects. Some of the suppliers had considerable technological knowledge and power, and their ability to apply this in new product or project developments with larger customers enabled them to gain more influence in relationships (Ford et al., 2003). In addition, historic dependence was an influential element which could either smooth the path of suppliers with their larger customers or expose them to opportunistic behaviour by less scrupulous customers (Axelrod, 1984 and Cousins, 2002). Larger customers had considerable influence in both the relationships with their smaller suppliers and the wider network. Their influence over smaller suppliers appeared particularly important in limiting and controlling the smaller suppliers' ability to develop strategic independence. This contributed to lack of confidence and insecurities in suppliers. A smaller supplier's strategic independence therefore appeared important in enabling it to avoid pressures associated with dealing with only one large powerful customer and in achieving more control in its relationships.