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Social bonds in clients’ business relationships with professional service providers

Social bonds in clients’ business relationships with professional service providers

Krolikowska-Adamczyk, Ewa ORCID: 0000-0002-0739-2110 (2013) Social bonds in clients’ business relationships with professional service providers. PhD thesis, University of Greenwich.

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The emergence of Relationship Marketing around 40 years ago has led to an improvement in our understanding and management of business relationships through the study of relationship constructs such as loyalty. Researchers have also found a number of different bonds in business relationships. One of these is social bonds which develop between individuals and can impact positively on long-term client relationships at an organisational level. However social bonds have suffered from a lack of clarity in definition, identification and measurement. Scale development has been limited as most researchers view the social bond as a unidimensional construct and fail to provide solid theoretical support for their scale. There is a need to define the concept and build a multidimensional scale of social bonds using a comprehensive theoretical framework.

Researchers such as Barnes (1994) suggest that marketers can learn from social psychologists who have studied relationships extensively. Indeed social-psychology theories such as social exchange theory have been widely used in relationship marketing studies. Attachment theory is relatively new to business relationships, having emerged from the study of child-parent relationships but has been applied more recently to explain customer attachment. Another promising theory is Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love (1986) which can be used to identify potential bonds based on liking.

This study uses attachment and liking theories as the theoretical framework for developing a social bond scale in the context of clients’ business relationships with professional service providers. These relationships have been substantially under-researched and provide a relevant context for the research due to the benefits of strong interpersonal bonds in a pure service environment like professional services. A multi-method research design was adopted consisting of qualitative in-depth interviews with professional service providers and a questionnaire survey of senior decision makers in the hotel industry.

The study’s contributions include a greater understanding of social bonds, attachment and liking in business relationships. The research found two distinct social bonds thereby confirming that the construct is multidimensional. A number of demographic and contextual variables were found to have an impact on social bond strength. These findings have led to guidelines on managing client relationships for professional service providers and organisations.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:
Uncontrolled Keywords: business relationships, social bonds, relationship marketing,
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
Pre-2014 Departments: School of Business
School of Business > Department of Accounting & Finance
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2020 17:42

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