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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Industrial Marketing Management, Volume 41, Issue 8, November 2012, Pages 1219–1227
The concept of attraction is not reserved for the study of interpersonal relationships between husband and wife, family members, or lifelong friends. On the contrary, it contains much potential as a variable describing interpersonal business exchange relationships. This potential has been noted by well-known industrial marketing scholars in the past, and recent theoretical advances have incorporated attraction to describe buyer–supplier exchange, although primarily at the interorganizational level of analysis. The in-depth understanding of interpersonal attraction between boundary spanners representing buying and supply companies has yet to be developed. By drawing on social psychology and social exchange literature, this paper attempts to fill some of this gap. It contributes by uncovering the elements and process of interpersonal attraction. Furthermore, propositions are formulated to guide future research efforts on interpersonal attraction in the buyer–supplier context. Finally, the managerial value and challenges of applying attraction to buyer–supplier exchange relationships are discussed.
Attraction (or attractiveness) has appeared occasionally in the literature on industrial buyer–supplier relationships for the past 5 decades. However, before the most recent decade, the interest was limited to either incorporating it as one construct of many in larger-scale conceptualizations of business interaction and exchange (e.g. Bagozzi, 1974, Dwyer et al., 1987, Frazier, 1983, Grönroos, 2000 and Halinen, 1996) or as a secondary variable in various types of marketing exchange models (e.g. Bonoma and Johnston, 1978, Campbell et al., 1988 and Evans, 1963). Hence, the importance of the construct was established, but the amount of writings and in-depth inquiries on attraction were still limited. Recently this has changed, as attention has been building, with a particular surge in the purchasing oriented part of the literature. Two primary factors have driven this change: 1) the wish for extending the current understanding of close ties in buyer–supplier relationships, whose importance is by now established in the field, and 2) the realization that the ability of companies to mobilize supplier resources by being attractive customers is paramount to not just purchasing performance, but indeed competitive advantage. This latter idea is more novel in purchasing than marketing, where researchers have been occupied with the objective of attracting customers for some time. However, in the purchasing field, the notion of offering rewards and being attractive to suppliers to gain access to resources is novel, not the least because it represents a reversal of traditional market logic (Schiele, Veldman, & Hüttinger, 2011b). Research in this stream has framed constructs such as customer attractiveness (Ellegaard et al., 2003 and Hald et al., 2009), supplier satisfaction (Essig and Amann, 2009 and Ghijsen et al., 2010), supplying behavior (Ramsay & Wagner, 2009), competence marketing (Golfetto & Gibbert, 2006), and preferred customer (Schiele et al., 2011b). As noted by Schiele, Veldman, and Hüttinger (2011a), the majority of research on the topic has been on the meso level, concerned with interorganizational attractiveness between buying and supplying companies, while little research has dealt with the interpersonal level. Consequently, these authors call for more research on the micro level. While research on the meso level is crucial to understanding how companies can improve their ability to mobilize exchange partner companies, it is also clear that social micro processes of attraction occur at the inter-personal level, between boundary spanners that represent their organizations, and that these processes are equally important (Caballero & Resnik, 1986). Hence, the purpose of this paper is to extend current understanding of attraction at the interpersonal level in order to evaluate why and how this construct should be brought to use in studies of buyer–supplier relationships. It contributes not only to the growing literature on attraction in business exchange, but also to the literature on close ties between buyers and suppliers and customer/supplier relationship management. From a practical angle, companies are experiencing remarkable challenges on these accounts. Boundary spanning managers need to understand how they can improve their attractiveness, not the least relative to suppliers, as well as how they can establish close ties with exchange partners in general. To meet the article objectives, the social psychology literature and its small but influential branch social exchange, are applied. Research on industrial buyer–supplier relationships has a long tradition of drawing on social psychology/exchange to understand business exchange (e.g. Bagozzi, 1974, Bagozzi, 1975, Bonoma and Johnston, 1978, Dwyer et al., 1987, Frazier, 1983, Håkansson, 1982, Lambe et al., 2001 and Wilson, 1995). The social psychological theoretical foundation for attraction was established between 1950 and 1980 and more recent research has provided few radical developments but primarily theoretical refinements and testing. As agents representing their organization, boundary spanners from each side of the buyer–supplier interface interact socially and elicit behaviors that generate costs and rewards for each other (Bagozzi, 1974). This social interaction has a large impact on the interorganizational level business exchange. Social psychology, which is the primary field of research on interpersonal interaction, is therefore applicable to explain organizational phenomena (Michela, 1996 and Staw, 2002). In a buyer–supplier context, Bonoma and Johnston (1978, p. 215) found that “the major factors influencing the purchasing decision are social ones, not rational-economic ones”. As one of the most central concepts to describe the social interaction process in both these literatures ( Berscheid and Walster, 1978, Blau, 1964, Duck, 1977 and Thibaut and Kelley, 1959), attraction also has merit in the study of economic exchange relations. Bonoma and Johnston (1978, p. 217) noted that “cooperation, trust, and mutual liking are variables that can develop in a positive interaction between buyers and sellers”, liking being virtually synonymous with attraction in the social psychology literature ( Duck, 1977 and Levinger and Snoek, 1972). Indeed, attraction has been recognized as a valid construct and study object in industrial marketing and purchasing research ( Bagozzi, 1974, Bonoma and Johnston, 1978, Caballero and Resnik, 1986, Dwyer et al., 1987, Hald et al., 2009, Halinen, 1996, Harris et al., 2003, Ramsay and Wagner, 2009 and Schiele et al., 2011b). Interpersonal attraction is relevant to all buyer–supplier relationships that hold some level of interpersonal interaction. However, this article focuses on buyer–supplier exchanges with a certain level of interdependence, mutual importance, stability, and desired continuity, where the development and maintenance of attraction are somewhat complex and difficult. Moreover, the article focuses primarily on the process of developing these buyer–supplier relationships into what Levinger and Snoek (1972) calls close mutual relationships, where the parties influence each other's actions and attitudes to a large extent. Parties in a close relationship have “frequent, strong, and diverse impacts on each other over a long period” (Clark & Pataki, 1995, p. 305). The increase in intensity, outcomes, and managerial complexity occurring when developing into the close range makes this type of relationship particularly interesting from a business exchange perspective. Close relationships hold most of the potential for business innovation and development, unlike surface contact relationships, which are characterized by mainly bilateral attitudes and limited interaction and interdependence, and which are only capable of supporting basic exchange (Levinger & Snoek, 1972). It appears though, that the surface contact relationship has been the dominant mode in buyer–supplier relationships in many companies, for various reasons. Developing close, collaborative relationships is evidently a considerable challenge (Spekman & Carraway, 2006), and perhaps the adoption and analysis of attraction as a relevant business exchange concept can increase our understanding of this challenge. The contributions of the article are: 1) an improved understanding of the different types of rewards and costs arising in interpersonal exchange between buying and selling boundary spanners, 2) a cyclical process model of attraction in interpersonal exchange, and 3) an agenda for extending knowledge on interpersonal attraction in business exchange through future empirical investigations. The paper is structured as follows. First, studies of interpersonal attraction in buyer–supplier relationships are reviewed and the basics of attraction are explained. Second, two large theoretical sections discuss the antecedents of attraction and the conditions and outcomes of attraction. This leads to a discussion of future research opportunities presented in the form of researchable propositions. Finally, managerial implications are provided and a conclusion is drawn.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
More than three decades ago, Bonoma and Johnston (1978) reported that friendship was among the two most cited factors influencing purchasing decisions among purchasing managers. Since then, the importance of close relationships to customers and suppliers has been established in the literature. But companies still find the transition from transaction to relationship difficult and academia has not yet developed a sufficient knowledge base to understand close ties between buyers and sellers. This paper has attempted to unfold the concept of interpersonal attraction and discussed its relevance in buyer–supplier relationships to contribute to the understanding of close ties between customers and suppliers. An extensive review and theoretical discussion of social psychology and social exchange literature have resulted in a detailed understanding of the features and process of attraction that existing industrial marketing/purchasing research has not yet covered, highlighting its potential for enriching the business exchange literature. Three contributions emerge from the paper: 1) A discussion and overview of the different types of rewards and costs arising in interpersonal business exchange. 2) A cyclical model of interpersonal attraction. 3) An agenda for future research into interpersonal attraction in business exchange. The discussion provides an overview of the spectrum of diverse personal rewards and costs from exchange and how they combine to influence individual boundary spanning decision makers. This way it also informs the literature on buyer/supplier relationship management, where a main concern has been how companies influence the decisions and behaviors of their exchange partners. The cyclical model emphasizes the reinforcing nature of attraction, where reciprocal and increasingly rewarding acts develop the relationship to increasing closeness levels, in process taking on more and more positive relational features propelling the relational potential even further and allowing the parties to realize the full potential of the exchange. Finally, a series of propositions have been formulated to guide future research efforts into interpersonal attraction in buyer–supplier relationships. As noted in the introduction, the growing body of research on attraction in buyer–supplier relationships has been concerned primarily with interorganizational phenomena. The aim has been to develop insights into the processes by which companies gain improved access to resources (mainly suppliers') in order to improve value creation, for instance through improved innovation, and eventually competitive advantage. The argumentation in this article shows that this ability is not only anchored at the organizational level. The interorganizational research must therefore be complemented by inter-personal research, because the ability to attract resources from customers and suppliers is a composite of both levels. Moreover, efforts at one level are dependent on efforts at the other. From a managerial perspective, many companies still find the creation and maintenance of close relationships difficult. The inclusion of attraction into the vocabulary used to describe buyer–supplier relationships could help managers understand why attempts at generating close attachments to customers and suppliers are sometimes unsuccessful and what it takes to generate more beneficial exchanges. In addition to generating a strong tie between the company and its supplier or customer, attraction also has an important function as an influence mechanism, as it generates identification, and simultaneously develops the relationship. Moreover, as an attitude it closes the loop from cognition to behavior by the influenced other party. By continuously offering favorable stimuli and managing the attraction process, boundary spanners can shape the decisions and behaviors of customers and suppliers to maximize benefits from exchange. If boundary spanning managers can liberate themselves from market logic, transactional practices, and power wielding, they may be capable of becoming attractive trading partners and develop their relationships to key customers and suppliers into the close range. This paper has attempted to offer some assistance in this managerial change process.