Recent Submissions

  • Medberg, Gustav (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2016)
    Economics and Society – 295
    In recent years, value has become a central topic of marketing research and business practice and is now considered to be a foundation of all effective marketing activity. Value, however, is also one of the most debated and challenging concepts in contemporary marketing theory. The elusive nature of value has contributed to the difficulty for marketing researchers to define the concept. Several streams of value research exist within marketing literature, contributing to the fluid conceptualizations of value. The definition of value adopted by the recent service perspective on marketing theory is value as value-in-use. A fundamental principle of value-in-use is that value is always created and determined during use of products and services. But what is value-in-use, really? This thesis set out to explore what it means for customers in service contexts. Surprisingly little attention has been given in prior service marketing research to the question of how customers understand and interpret value-in-use. Such knowledge is essential for future research about value-in-use as well as for generating customer-centric marketing insights based on a service perspective on marketing theory. The aim of this study was to address this gap and further our understanding of value-in-use from the service customer’s point of view. To achieve the purpose of the thesis, the Value Chart Technique (VCT) was created. The VCT is a research method that captures customers’ perceptions of positive and negative value-in-use throughout service episodes. The method utilizes a graphical tool called the Value chart to track how value-in-use evolves. The VCT’s unique set of features makes it particularly suited for studying value-in-use as a dynamic phenomenon. For the empirical study, 26 informants were recruited, and they shared a total of 53 positive and negative bank service stories, which were analyzed using the VCT. The findings of the study show not only how value-in-use evolves positively and negatively over time, but also that customers understand and interpret value-in-use in service episodes as features of the service process, the outcome of the service, and economic features of the service, i.e., functional, technical, and economic service quality. Hence, this thesis contributes to service marketing theory by demonstrating that service quality and value-in-use in service episodes represent the same empirical phenomenon, despite their different theoretical traditions. As the findings indicate that service quality is the way in which customers understand and interpret value-in-use in service contexts, service managers are recommended to focus on continuous quality management as a way to facilitate the creation of value-in-use.
  • Virtanen, Henrik (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2015)
    Economics and Society – 288
    Att samarbeta med en konkurrent i den internationella verksamheten kan vara ett alternativ för små- och medelstora företag. Parterna stöter på hinder i den internationella verksamheten, vilket ger motiv till samarbete. Det finns olika typer av samarbete mellan konkurrenter. Fokus i denna avhandling är att skilja på vilken eller vilka funktioner i företaget samarbetet omfattar. Parterna kan samarbeta kring gemensamma funktioner (integrerat samarbete) eller kring delade funktioner (sekventiellt samarbete). Förekomsten av olika typer av samarbete, indikerar att man kan anta att samarbetet styrs av den strategiska situation parterna befinner sig i. I samarbetet råder det en spänning mellan samarbete och konkurrens. Man samarbetar för att skapa värde, medan man konkurrerar för att utnyttja värdet. Ett samarbete kan medföra konkurrensfördelar, men samtidigt kan spänningen mellan samarbete och konkurrens skapa problem och risker. Forskningen kring samarbetande konkurrenter har varit mindre omfattande. En kunskapsutveckling är önskvärd. Syftet med denna avhandling är att analysera samarbeten mellan konkurrerande små- och medelstora företag, med avsikten att utveckla den teoretiska och empiriska förståelsen av samarbeten, samt samarbetsmotiven och -förutsättningarna i en internationell kontext. En målsättning är att besvara frågan varför parterna väljer att samarbeta antingen integrerat eller sekventiellt. Ytterligare är målsättningen att klargöra hur parterna hanterar spänningen mellan samarbete och konkurrens, samt utreda vilka problem och risker som finns i samarbetet. Den empiriska delen av avhandlingen utgörs av en kvantitativ kartläggning samt fyra fallstudier. Resultaten visar att indelningen av samarbetstyper inte är helt klar. Man kan identifiera rena integrerade samarbeten, man kan identifiera rena sekventiella samarbeten, samt man kan identifiera hybrider av dessa två, där det finns både integrerade och sekventiella funktioner i samarbetet. En funktion i företagets produktionskedja består av olika aktiviteter som kräver olika insats av resurser och kompetenser. Trots att man samarbetar inom samma funktion (per definition integrerat samarbete), kan man dela aktiviteterna mellan parterna i funktionen (sekventiell logik). Eftersom tanken att dela in samarbeten i två typer är oklar, är det även problematiskt att normativt kunna påvisa klara skillnader mellan dessa vad gäller t.ex. motiv och risker. Varje samarbete är unikt. Ett sätt att mildra spänningen mellan samarbete och konkurrens och riskerna parterna upplever i samarbetet är att separera samarbets- och konkurrensfunktionerna från varandra. I intensiva och betydande samarbeten tenderar parterna, speciellt om det är frågan om små- och medelstora företag, att avveckla den direkta konkurrensen genom att t.ex. specialisera sig på olika kunder och nischer (produkter) eller fokusera på olika marknader. Parterna kan definiera när man har rollen som konkurrent och när som samarbetspartner. Personliga relationer, förtroende, gemensamma normer och förfaringssätt förmildrar spänningen och motverkar parternas intentioner att handla opportunistiskt.
  • Kedzior, Richard (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2014)
    Economics and Society – 281
    Changes in consumption related to digital technologies, digitization and the emergence of new media have been topics of great interest to both academics and managers. The backbone of all these changes, the Internet has penetrated consumers’ daily lives and changed the way they work, shop and socialize. The new digital spaces (e.g., social networking sites, massively multiplayer online games, or online virtual worlds) have become important conduits for sociality and consumption as evidenced by the time and money consumers spend online. Yet, frequently the social, cultural and economic significance of digital worlds has been dismissed due to their “immaterial” character. The evidence discussed in this volume demonstrates that consumers experience digital worlds as material, yet materiality in this instance transcends the conventional notions of tangibility and physicality. Thus, this study introduces the concept of digital materiality to more accurately describe the phenomenon of materiality in digital environments, and focuses on the ways in which it emerges in digital worlds. To this end, presented here conceptual framework maps out five distinct processes through which digital worlds become material to their consumers. Each of these processes is driven by a set of consumer motivations which correspond to consumer perceptions of digital materiality. Apart from the theoretical and conceptual contributions to academic literature, this research offers a number of managerial implications which can benefit professionals working with digital media. The ideas discussed here may be especially valuable for public policy makers and product managers struggling with the inherent instability of digital materiality. Some of the insights can also cast light on ways in which businesses could expand their market offering by complementing existing product lines with either digital or physical components. This interdisciplinary work is positioned within Consumer Culture Theory and Digital Consumption Studies, and draws on the extant literature in consumer research, cultural studies, anthropology, and human-computer interaction. Richard Kedzior is an Assistant Professor of Markets, Innovation and Design at the School of Management, Bucknell University. He is a consumer researcher who studies phenomena at the intersection of technology and culture.
  • Huotari, Kai (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2014)
    Economics and Society – 280
    In his dissertation, Kai Huotari studied how customer-to-customer (C2C) communication becomes a part of service experience. Using grounded theory, Huotari investigated TV live-tweeting – i.e., people reading and writing Twitter messages about a TV program while viewing it. He interviewed 45 live-tweeters and analyzed more than 4,000 tweets in the U.S. during 2011–12. The study identified four distinct groups of users live-tweeting about TV programs (fanatic TV live-tweeters, systematic TV live-tweeters, sporadic TV live-tweeters, and active Twitter users) and four main categories of TV live-tweets (courtesy tweets, outlet tweets, selection tweets, and analysis tweets); described several TV live-tweeting practices, from preparation practices to reading and writing live-tweets and including certain use of Twitter functions; and revealed that a TV live-tweeter is an empowered TV viewer who can, by experientializing live-tweeting into his or her TV viewing, personalize and control his or her TV viewing experience better than before, can express him- or herself more fully, and can reach a large enough audience and acceptance for his or her ideas. Experientializing is the core concept that emerged from the study. It refers to the consumer integrating two activities with each other in a way that leads to new practices of consumption and to a transformed and empowering experience. The study develops a substantive theory of experientializing live-tweeting into the TV viewing experience. Huotari suggests that the concept can, however, be used also in other contexts and presents two abstractions of the theory: experientializing C2C communication into a consumption experience and experientializing a customer activity into a service experience. The associated tentative models can be used to explain, for example, museum visitors’ willingness to go to museums in groups or how reading on public transportation changes the experience of commuting. The study brings new insight to television studies, especially for the ongoing discussion of the so-called “second screen.” The study repositions the research on C2C communication: it investigates C2C communication as a part of consumption experience instead of considering it only as communication about consumption experience. In addition, the study suggests new ways to categorize C2C communication. For marketing in general, it introduces the concept of experientializing as a customer driven process wherein service providers have only limited visibility. The media industry can take advantage of the empirical part of the study. At the same time, the theoretical contributions of the study have broader applicability and, accordingly, can be made use of in various industries.
  • Liewendahl, Helena (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2014)
    Economics and Society – 277
    Motivation is a popular notion in today’s worklife. Employees, in particular those who work in traditional customer service, should be motivated to care for their customers. Service literature assumes that managers are able to order subjectivity towards employees and see to it that employees are motivated. This study deviates from this viewpoint by adopting a humanistic and systemic stance. It sees motivation as an intrinsic process, and employees as active subjects in worklife as well as owners of their motivation. It takes an employee perspective as it sets out to explore their motivation to live up to value promises. Value promises is another topical concept. Currently, companies promise all kinds of things that should enhance customers’ value formation. Often these promises deviate from what actually occurs in service encounters, and psychological contracts such as value, brand and service promises are broken. Currently employees do, despite the increase of e-services, have a substantial role in delivering promises. The more complex and abstract the promise is, such as “the best service”, the more is required of employees to live up to it. The more emotion work embedded in the promise, the more important motivation for living up to it becomes. Taking value practices, i.e., service encounters and firm internal practices underpinning these as its locus, this study explored employees’ experiences by identifying issues that employees found having an impact on their work in customer interface, and thus influencing their motivation. A number of demotivating as well as motivating factors were identified: Too abstract marketing ideas and fuzzy promises, as well as a paternalistic and objectifying stance towards employees do impinge motivation negatively. Truthful authentic promises that reflect value practices as they are, and employees having agency to participate not only in delivering, but also in enabling and giving promises, to name a few, were found to have a positive impact on motivation. By noting these factors, this study strives to widen our understanding of the mechanisms that underpin employee motivation in a service context. The thesis suggests a Human Service Logic (HSL) as a new paradigmatic perspective to service research, parallel to the other current prevailing service logics. As central to employee motivation, the HSL emphasises social- and service competences. Drawing upon the three promises framework a promise integration (PI) model is suggested. The PI model introduces a new perspective on the TPF model; reordering, reorienting, and reframing it from promise management, governed mainly by managerial control, norms, and procedure, to a dynamic promise-living perspective, directed by human principles and co-active managing of value practices. The HSL framework, and its PI model, describes an employee discourse on motivation in a service context.
  • Díaz Ruiz, Carlos A (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2014)
    Economics and Society – 274
    From street activists to corporate managers, a rising debate is questioning whether markets can be reimagined to meet environmental, social and corporate goals. However, one problem to advance the debate is that markets are often evoked but not investigated; in other words, pundits rely on representations of what a market is and how it works often lacking correspondence with actual markets. Subsequently, the dynamics in the correspondence between representation and markets constitute an important and topical gap of knowledge whose investigation can be fruitful to restructure how markets and society interact. At the core of this dissertation is the concept of market representations where complex social reality is simplified into coherent, yet incomplete views of how markets work either now or in the future. Market representations are important because of their capacity to enable and constrain a repertoire of actions for acting in markets. As such, market representations are conceptualized to be “in action” - following the performativity turn in marketing literature – by investigating how the world of ideas has effects in the real world. Therefore, by providing conceptual foundations and empirical evidence, this dissertation demonstrates that representational practices are part and parcel of acting in markets. The dissertation is composed by four essays spanning a wide range of methods: literature review, a qualitative in-depth analysis, quantitative testing and content analysis. Essay one focuses on the assumptions mobilized about markets in literature originating in marketing and economic sociology. Findings reveal that commonly held beliefs about markets- such as competition, profit maximization, the centrality of exchange and the existence of supply and demand - are assumptions that are not featured in every market. Essay two mobilizes in-depth methods to investigate how commercial market researchers put together representations for their clients. The study tracks how market researchers select and privilege representational objects to create unique representations for their clients to act. Essay three presents quantitative evidence suggesting that market representations can constrain and enable a repertoire of managerial actions. In the context of business marketing, the study demonstrates that the form how the market is understood can have an effect on the actions that managers find relevant and appropriate. Essay four investigates how market research reports are assembled. By analyzing how market representations are assembled, the study explains how market researchers move back and forth between a concern to be accurate and a concern to be actionable. Overall, this dissertation contributes to the subfields of market studies and consumer culture theory in marketing by providing the conceptual foundations and empirical evidence for representations. The debate on the interaction of markets and society is enriched by understanding how assumptions about markets correspond to repertoires of actions.
  • Hellman, Pia (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2014)
    Economics and Society – 271
    The starting point of this research was the increasing popularity of companies introducing e-services because of the expected increase in efficiency. However, the introduction of an e-service does not automatically lead to usage. Research shows that even when consumers say that they prefer to have their transactions handled by digital channels, the adoption rate of e-services is lower than what the company has expected. This study set out to investigate if marketing communication through e-mail could increase e-service adoption rates. There is clearly a lack of understanding of what drives consumers to use e-services. Generally, there are monetary benefits for the company when consumers switch to online services. For the consumers, however, the benefits are not necessarily evident. In order to build positive consumer perceptions of the e-service benefits and increase e-service adoption, the firms need to communicate the benefits to consumers. This thesis investigates if communicating e-service benefits to consumers can increase e-service adoption. Based on a conceptual framework of e-service benefits and e-service communication, the effect of communicating e-service benefits through e-mail in a b-to-c environment was measured. Three studies were conducted, of which the main study was a field experiment. An experimental design was applied to new customers of a telecom service provider. Three benefits were measured: time savings, easy to use, and access to information. The adoption was measured as the web traffic, including e-mail click-through-rates and login rates to the e-service. The effect of each e-service benefit used alone, in pairs or in a combination of all three benefits was measured. The effect of repeat actions was also tested. The findings from the experiment revealed that there were differences between the effects of the treatments on different behaviors in the adoption process. However, this research failed to provide strong evidence supporting a positive effect of e-mail communication on e-service adoption. Nevertheless, the results suggest that companies should carefully investigate which benefits consumers are seeking and how to communicate the benefits during the stages of the consumer adoption process. The study shows that consumers’ interest in and perception of e-service benefits can vary during the different stages of the e-service adoption process.
  • Kiehelä, Hanna (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2014)
    Economics and Society – 269
    Consumers’ product assessments are largely based on colour, and a product’s colour can increase consumer satisfaction, awareness and loyalty. However, existing colour research is fragmented and calls for theoretically-enhanced understandings of the role of colour in consumer product perception. The existing colour research mainly focuses on consumers’ immediate reactions when exposed to colours although studies show that consumers evaluate products differently in purchase and in use. Therefore, to fully understand how consumers are affected by colour, it is insufficient to study instant reactions. Existing colour studies often explore colour in general, without a product context, although the influence of colour on consumers needs an interpretative significance. Thus, colour perception cannot be examined independently of the determined object. This thesis analysed how consumers perceive the value of colour in relation to products. This has not been extensively examined before although consumers have been found to relate colour to the perceived value of products. Studying the perceived value of product colour allowed this thesis to widen the time scope from consumers’ immediate reactions to using products in everyday life. Two studies were conducted on how consumers perceived the value of product colour by empirically studying the objects of cars and mobile phones. The first study, based on 39 interviews, resulted in an inductive conceptualisation of how consumers perceived the value of colour in relation to products. This study has several important findings: Consumers perceive the value of product colour on three value dimensions – experiential, symbolic and functional; In each dimension, there is a consumer perceived colour preference scale which consists of desirable, tolerable and unacceptable colours; The colour preference scales of the three value dimensions may sometimes clash when consumers prefer different colours in each value dimension, which leads them to make trade-offs between the dimensions; Additionally, an unacceptable colour in any dimension may lead consumers to decide against making a purchase. The second study – an online study with 655 respondents – corroborated this conceptualisation. This thesis contributes to existing research on perceived value and colour by demonstrating that product colour is an important but neglected aspect of perceived value, by illustrating the dimensionality of the perceived value of product colour and by proposing trade-offs between the value dimensions – a currently understudied area. The recommendation is for companies to acknowledge the dimensionality of the perceived value of product colour. This would enable manufacturers to better evaluate how consumers perceive new product colours, and retailers to provide customers with better service expertise and assistance, thus likely increasing purchase intentions and customer satisfaction.
  • Mickelsson, Jakob (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2014)
    Economics and Society – 267
    Due to changes in technology, customers are increasingly empowered in their interactions with companies. Information is readily available, and customers can choose, learn and contribute in ways previously unimaginable. Even though marketers have acknowledged the importance of understanding the customer as an active participant in service, there have been few efforts to systematically understand and illustrate the customer’s structures of activity. Customer activity has within marketing traditionally been viewed as a response to inputs from the provider. Advertising, for example, is seen as having a persuasive function: It should result in the customer’s activity of buying. Similarly, in service research, the customer’s activities are considered to be either directed by service design or as inputs into an interaction process. This thesis presents an alternative view on customer activity: It is a perspective on service use. In contrast to earlier perspectives, the customer activity perspective incorporates service as an enabling or supporting element in the customer’s activities. The thesis defines ‘customer activity’ as a discrete sequence of behaviour that through its outcomes aims at creating or supporting some type of value in the customer’s life or business. This definition enables new types of analysis. By identifying many separate customer activities, service providers can uncover interlinked systems of activity. Customer activities are connected to each other through, for example, frequency links, functional links, resource links, temporal links, cognitive links or geographical links. The role of service is to enable customer activity and serve as an ingredient in the customer’s interlinked systems of activity. Consequently, the thesis takes a customer-dominant stance on service. Customers are seen as controlling and combining the services of different providers with each other to serve their own ends. Customer activity is presented as a focal concept for understanding this process. Moreover, customer activity is viewed as more than simply interactions with a service provider or inputs into realizing a particular service. Rather, activities are elements that customers use to organize their own lives. The thesis contains empirical examinations of the relationship between customer activity and service. These show that customers maintain different types of activity systems, and that the same service can play different roles in the life of the customer. Service providers can use this information as input for service design, communication and customer segmentation.
  • Nyman, Henrich (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2013)
    Economics and Society – 256
    To twist an old saying into ‘service logic’, one could express the ongoing paradigm shift in service marketing as – ‘service is not as usual, anymore’. This thesis argues for adopting service logic on profitability and, thus, for studying ‘service’ (singular) profitability as a divergent concept from ‘services’ (plural) profitability. For the uninitiated into the recent theoretical development within service marketing, the concepts of service and services might at a first glance appear indistinguishable. However, there is more to the concept of service in contrast to services and, hence, to the rationale for conceptualising service profitability as distinct from services profitability, than just omitting the letter -s from the word ‘service’. An increasingly growing body of the service marketing literature challenges the traditional services paradigm, in which services have been characterised as different from goods by four distinguishing ‘IHIP’ characteristics: ‘intangibility’, ‘heterogeneity’, ‘inseparability’ and ‘perishability’. The definitions of the IHIP characteristics are found to be too narrow and outdated as generic service characteristics. What is more, the ‘IHIP’ characteristics are not universally applicable to all services during all stages of the service process and fail to set apart services from goods in general. Most severely, the ‘IHIP’ characteristics are still based on the same goods- or manufacturing-centred logic that they are claimed to differ from. In contrast to services (plural) as a distinct category of market offerings, the contemporary perspectives on service (singular) represent various ways of thinking and, thus, logics or mental models on value creation from the customer’s point of view, founded on ‘value in use’. However, in emphasising value creation from the customers’ perspective, the contemporary perspectives on service pay considerably less attention, if at all, to the financial value of service from the service provider’s perspective and, as a result, to service profitability. Purposely, this thesis adopts a provider perspective on service by conceptualising service as consisting of two distinct processes: the service sales process and the service provision process. Nevertheless, the customer perspective on these processes is imperative for the financial consequences of the service. From the customers’ perspective, the service sales process deals with value propositions, which indicates that service offerings are not the final result of an economic activity but should add value for customers. Moreover, from the customers’ perspective, the service provision process comprises value facilitation, i.e. the facilitation of the customers’ value-creation activities. Consequently, this thesis argues that the concept of service profitability could be characterised as the financial outcome of service sales and service provision, wherein the service provider’s facilitation and support of the customers’ value creation activities is paramount.
  • Holttinen, Heli (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2013)
    Economics and Society – 263
    This thesis investigates consumer value creation as an everyday sociocultural and situational phenomenon. The first objective was to understand and conceptualize how cultural ideals and practices inform consumer everyday value creation. I examined empirically how consumers enact cultural ideals in mundane consumption in the empirical context of a weekday dinner practice among Finnish households. The second objective was to contextualize a value proposition concept in customers’ practices. The approach consisted of a theoretical investigation of how consumers experience and evaluate value propositions in their practices in order to draw theoretical implications. Integrating complementing knowledge from S-D logic, Consumer Culture Theory, and Practice Theory provided me insightful theoretical lenses for the examinations. The findings highlight the primacy of cultural ideals and practices in consumer everyday value creation and value co-creation. They inform the consumers regarding which value propositions are desirable and thereby guide resource integration and thus purchasing decisions. This thesis portrays consumers as pragmatic, flexible and fragmented value-creating agents. It demonstrates how the consumers enact and compromise cultural ideals and identity projects in relation to practices. They compromise identity projects and cultural ideals in some practice(s) but not across practices. As the practices serve different ends for the consumers at different times, the meaning of the practices is constantly re-created by consumers. As resource integrators the consumers accept and use value propositions in the practices in their own ways irrespective of firms’ intentions, in order to enact cultural ideals. Value becomes co-created only when the consumers (as customers) can enact cultural ideals by integrating firms’ offerings with their other resources - and as a result experience value. While this thesis illuminates the interplay among cultural ideals, practices, value propositions, and consumer action, it offers a cultural and practice-theoretical conceptualization of how consumers, material objects and a sociocultural environment interact and co-create each other at a certain time in history and in the consumers’ lives. The findings represent the value of an offering as a dynamic, context-dependent, intersubjective and subjective notion that is constantly co-created and re-created by customers. This thesis introduces firms a sociocultural and practice-theoretical approach for the new offering development process. It means perceiving and investigating customers’ lives and value-creating activities as a mosaic of practices in which the customers try to enact cultural ideals by integrating value propositions with their other resources. By contextualizing the value propositions in the customers’ practices, the thesis helps firms to improve the effectiveness of the new offering development process. Effectiveness here refers to the ability of the firms to create offerings that are both culturally and practically desirable for the customers. By addressing the cultural ideals and the practical realities of everyday life, effective offerings make it possible for the customers to enact the cultural ideals in their everyday lives.
  • Arantola-Hattab, Johanna (Hanken School of Economics, 2013)
    Economics and Society – 254
    During the past decade value co-creation has been eagerly discussed in service marketing research. Despite the vigorous interest, the discussion has largely stayed on the theoretical level and perhaps led more to confusion than evolution. In business-to-consumer marketing the focus on investigating value has mainly been on the dyad of provider and customer; however the customer has remained an undefined unit in the interactions. This study argues a deeper investigation on co-creation is needed to clarify the value co-creation concept. The purpose of this research is to explore how a family as a customer experiences co-created service value. This study widens the investigation on co-creation beyond the visible interactions between the provider and a single person to cover often for the provider invisible interactions of different family members. The underpinning framework is the Nordic School’s customer-dominant logic (CDL). This study uses qualitative methodology as the approach to study the research topic. The research method applies ethnography to gain knowledge regarding how a specific group of people interacts with the environment. The empirical study consists of interviews and observations of working mothers who interpret their daily lives, responsibilities, and activities. Based on this background, they discuss their experiences and opinions about their banking service. The empirical study illustrates how mothers discuss their individual and family needs with a bank. Thus, this study widens the scope of a single person being a customer and presents the idea of a family as a customer unit. This study contributes to the current theoretical discussion on value co-creation by presenting a categorisation model for investigating different entities of service value co-creation. The model illustrates how experienced service value is a consequence of co-creation covering both visible and invisible interactions of a family. The study illustrates how service value is experienced by a family as a consequence of value co-creation not only in a dyadic interaction between the provider and an individual, but also in the multiple interactions within a family. The managerial contributions give guidance to companies regarding how to extend their understanding of a customer’s experienced service value and how to become better embedded in their customers’ everyday lives. An increased understanding of different entities of co-creation generates new knowledge regarding how companies can sustain valuable relationships with their customers. The findings illustrate it is essential for a bank as a service provider to shift the focus from dyadic interactions to cover also the multiple interactions within a family as a customer unit.
  • Viio, Paul (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2011)
    Economics and Society – 237
    Although previous research has recognised adaptation as a central aspect in relationships, the adaptation of the sales process to the buying process has not been studied. Furthermore, the linking of relationship orientation as mindset with adaptation as a strategy and forming the means has not been elaborated upon in previous research. Adaptation in the context of relationships has mostly been studied in relationship marketing. In sales and sales management research, adaptation has been studied with reference to personal selling. This study focuses on adaptation of the sales process to strategically match it to the buyer’s mindset and buying process. The purpose of this study is to develop a framework for strategic adaptation of the seller’s sales process to match the buyer’s buying process in a business-to-business context to make sales processes more relationship oriented. In order to arrive at a holistic view of adaptation of the sales process during relationship initiation, both the seller and buyer are included in an extensive case analysed in the study. However, the selected perspective is primarily that of the seller, and the level focused on is that of the sales process. The epistemological perspective adopted is constructivism. The study is a qualitative one applying a retrospective case study, where the main sources of information are in-depth semi-structured interviews with key informants representing the counterparts at the seller and the buyer in the software development and telecommunications industries. The main theoretical contributions of this research involve targeting a new area in the crossroads of relationship marketing, sales and sales management, and buying and purchasing by studying adaptation in a business-to-business context from a new perspective. Primarily, this study contributes to research in sales and sales management with reference to relationship orientation and strategic sales process adaptation. This research fills three research gaps. Firstly, linking the relationship orientation mindset with adaptation as strategy. Secondly, extending adaptation in sales from adaptation in selling to strategic adaptation of the sales process. Thirdly, extending adaptation to include facilitation of adaptation. The approach applied in the study, systematic combining, is characterised by continuously moving back and forth between theory and empirical data. The framework that emerges, in which linking mindset with strategy with mindset and means forms a central aspect, includes three layers: purchasing portfolio, seller-buyer relationship orientation, and strategic sales process adaptation. Linking the three layers enables an analysis of where sales process adaptation can make a contribution. Furthermore, implications for managerial use are demonstrated, for example how sellers can avoid the ‘trap’ of ad-hoc adaptation. This includes involving the company, embracing the buyer’s purchasing portfolio, understanding the current position that the seller has in this portfolio, and possibly educating the buyer about advantages of adopting a relationship-oriented approach.
  • Persson, Andreas (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2011)
    Economics and Society - 230
    The increasing focus of relationship marketing and customer relationship management (CRM) studies on issues of customer profitability has led to the emergence of an area of research on profitable customer management. Nevertheless, there is a notable lack of empirical research examining the current practices of firms specifically with regard to the profitable management of customer relationships according to the approaches suggested in theory. This thesis fills this research gap by exploring profitable customer management in the retail banking sector. Several topics are covered, including marketing metrics and accountability; challenges in the implementation of profitable customer management approaches in practice; analytic versus heuristic (‘rule of thumb’) decision making; and the modification of costly customer behavior in order to increase customer profitability, customer lifetime value (CLV), and customer equity, i.e. the financial value of the customer base. The thesis critically reviews the concept of customer equity and proposes a Customer Equity Scorecard, providing a starting point for a constructive dialog between marketing and finance concerning the development of appropriate metrics to measure marketing outcomes. Since customer management and measurement issues go hand in hand, profitable customer management is contingent on both marketing management skills and financial measurement skills. A clear gap between marketing theory and practice regarding profitable customer management is also identified. The findings show that key customer management aspects that have been proposed within the literature on profitable customer management for many years, are not being actively applied by the banks included in the research. Instead, several areas of customer management decision making are found to be influenced by heuristics. This dilemma for marketing accountability is addressed by emphasizing that CLV and customer equity, which are aggregate metrics, only provide certain indications regarding the relative value of customers and the approximate value of the customer base (or groups of customers), respectively. The value created by marketing manifests itself in the effect of marketing actions on customer perceptions, behavior, and ultimately the components of CLV, namely revenues, costs, risk, and retention, as well as additional components of customer equity, such as customer acquisition. The thesis also points out that although costs are a crucial component of CLV, they have largely been neglected in prior CRM research. Cost-cutting has often been viewed negatively in customer-focused marketing literature on service quality and customer profitability, but the case studies in this thesis demonstrate that reduced costs do not necessarily have to lead to lower service quality, customer retention, and customer-related revenues. Consequently, this thesis provides an expanded foundation upon which marketers can stake their claim for accountability. By focusing on the range of drivers and all of the components of CLV and customer equity, marketing has the potential to provide specific evidence concerning how various activities have affected the drivers and components of CLV within different groups of customers, and the implications for customer equity on a customer base level.
  • Polsa, Pia (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2002)
    Economics and Society
    The aim of the current study is to examine the influence of the channel external environment on power, and the effect of power on the distribution network structure within the People’s Republic of China. Throughout the study a dual research process was applied. The theory was constructed by elaborating the main theoretical premises of the study, the channel power theories, the political economy framework and the distribution network structure, but these marketing channel concepts were expanded with other perspectives from other disciplines. The main method applied was a survey conducted among 164 Chinese retailers, complemented by interviews, photographs, observations and census data from the field. This multi-method approach enabled not only to validate and triangulate the quantitative results, but to uncover serendipitous findings as well. The theoretical contribution of the current study to the theory of marketing channels power is the different view it takes on power. First, earlier power studies have taken the producer perspective, whereas the current study also includes a distributor perspective to the discussion. Second, many power studies have dealt with strongly dependent relationships, whereas the current study examines loosely dependent relationships. Power is dependent on unequal distribution of resources rather than based on high dependency. The benefit of this view is in realising that power resources and power strategies are separate concepts. The empirical material of the current study confirmed that at least some resources were significantly related to power strategies. The study showed that the dimension resources composed of technology, know-how and knowledge, managerial freedom and reputation was significantly related to non-coercive power. Third, the notion of different outcomes of power is a contribution of this study to the channels power theory even though not confirmed by the empirical results. Fourth, it was proposed that channel external environment other than the resources would also contribute to the channel power. These propositions were partially supported thus providing only partial contribution to the channel power theory. Finally, power was equally distributed among the different types of actors. The findings from the qualitative data suggest that different types of retailers can be classified according to the meaning the actors put into their business. Some are more business oriented, for others retailing is the only way to earn a living. The findings also suggest that in some actors both retailing and wholesaling functions emerge, and this has implications for the marketing channels structure.
  • Wendelin, Robert (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2004)
    Economics and Society
    A focus on cooperative industrial business relationships has become increasingly important in studies of industrial relationships. If the relationships between companies are strong it is usually a sign that companies will cooperate for a longer time and that may affect companies’ competitive and financial strength positively. As a result the bonds between companies become more important. This is due to the fact that bonds are building blocks of relationships and thus affect the stability in the cooperation between companies. Bond strength affect relationship strength. A framework regarding how bonds develop and change in an industrial business relationship has been developed in the study. Episodes affect the bonds in the relationship strengthening or weakening the bonds in the relationship or preserving status quo. Routine or critical episodes may lead to the strengthening or weakening of bonds as well as the preservation of status quo. The method used for analyzing bond strength trying to grasp the nature and change of bonds was invented by systematically following the elements of the definitions of bonds. A system with tables was drawn up in order to find out if the bond was weak, of medium strength or strong. Bonds are important regulators of industrial business relationships. By influencing the bonds one may have possibilities to strengthen or weaken the business relationship. Strengthen the business relationship in order to increase business and revenue and weaken the relationship in order to terminate business where the revenue is low or where there may be other problems in the relationship. By measuring the strength of different bonds it can be possible to strengthen weak bonds in order to strengthen the relationship. By using bond management it is possible to strategically strengthen or weaken the bonds between the cooperating companies in order to strengthen the cooperation and tie the customer or supplier to the company or weaken the cooperation in order to terminate the relationship. The instrument for the management of bonds is to use the created bond audit in order to know which bonds resources should be focused on in order to increase or decrease their strength.
  • Owusu, Richard A. (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2003)
    Economics and Society
    Despite thirty years of research in interorganizational networks and project business within the industrial networks approach and relationship marketing, collective capability of networks of business and other interorganizational actors has not been explicitly conceptualized and studied within the above-named approaches. This is despite the fact that the two approaches maintain that networking is one of the core strategies for the long-term survival of market actors. Recently, many scholars within the above-named approaches have emphasized that the survival of market actors is based on the strength of their networks and that inter-firm competition is being replaced by inter-network competition. Furthermore, project business is characterized by the building of goal-oriented, temporary networks whose aims, structures, and procedures are clarified and that are governed by processes of interaction as well as recurrent contracts. This study develops frameworks for studying and analysing collective network capability, i.e. collective capability created for the network of firms. The concept is first justified and positioned within the industrial networks, project business, and relationship marketing schools. An eclectic source of conceptual input is based on four major approaches to interorganizational business relationships. The study uses qualitative research and analysis, and the case report analyses the empirical phenomenon using a large number of qualitative techniques: tables, diagrams, network models, matrices etc. The study shows the high level of uniqueness and complexity of international project business. While perceived psychic distance between the parties may be small due to previous project experiences and the benefit of existing relationships, a varied number of critical events develop due to the economic and local context of the recipient country as well as the coordination demands of the large number of involved actors. The study shows that the successful creation of collective network capability led to the success of the network for the studied project. The processes and structures for creating collective network capability are encapsulated in a model of governance factors for interorganizational networks. The theoretical and management implications are summarized in seven propositions. The core implication is that project business success in unique and complex environments is achieved by accessing the capabilities of a network of actors, and project management in such environments should be built on both contractual and cooperative procedures with local recipient country parties.
  • Ballantyne, David (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2004)
    Economics and Society
    This report presents a new theory of internal marketing. The thesis has developed as a case study in retrospective action research. This began with the personal involvement of the author in an action research project for customer service improvement at a large Australian retail bank. In other words, much of the theory generating ‘research’ took place after the original project ‘action’ had wound down. The key theoretical proposition is that internal marketing is a relationship development strategy for the purpose of knowledge renewal. In the banking case, exchanges of value between employee participants emerged as the basis for relationship development, with synergistic benefits for customers, employees and the bank. Relationship development turned out to be the mediating variable between the learning activity of employee participants at the project level and success in knowledge renewal at the organisational level. Relationship development was also a pivotal factor in the motivation and customer consciousness of employees. The conclusion reached is that the strength of relationship-mediated internal marketing is in combining a market focused commitment and employee freedom in project work to achieve knowledge renewal. The forgotten truth is that organisational knowledge can be renewed through dialogue and learning, through being trustworthy, and by gaining the trust of employees in return.
  • Åkerlund, Helena (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2004)
    Economics and Society
    This dissertation is based on the assumption that fading customer relationships are important phenomena to understand in order for companies to prevent a future relationship termination, manage a desired relationship termination, or manage the situation where the relationship strength temporarily or permanently has weakened but where the customer still stays with the same service provider. It is assumed that fading could take different forms and develop through a range of different processes. The purpose of the thesis is therefore to define and describe fading, reveal different types of fading relationship processes, and discuss the dynamics of these processes. In services literature there is a lack of research focusing on the weakening of customer relationships. Fading therefore represents a new approach to understanding issues related to the ending of customer relationships. A fading relationship process could precede a relationship ending, but could also represent a temporal weakening of the relationship without leading to termination. It thus distinguishes the concept from other concepts within ending research which focus solely on relationships that have been terminated, taking a larger aspect of the relationship into account (as a relationship could build on constant changes). A pilot study created an understanding of difficulties related to understanding and detecting fading customer relationship, which led to a follow-up study incorporating qualitative interviews in relationship dyads characterised as fading with both private banking customers and their respective financial advisor. The focus remained on the understanding of the fading process resulting in a model for analysing different types of fading processes. Four types of fading processes were also revealed; the crash landing process, the altitude drop process, the fizzle out process and the try out process. The dissertation contributes to a broadened understanding of different types of fading processes within the research area of ending relationships emphasising the dynamic aspects of the phenomenon. Managerial implications include the management of different types of fading processes and also the understanding of the financial advisor’s role in influencing the development of these processes. Helena Åkerlund is associated with CERS, the Centre for Relationship Marketing and Service Management at Hanken, Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration, Helsinki
  • Skåtar, Kim (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2004)
    Economics and Society
    Den klassiska situationen där konsumentinformationen på ett ensidigt sätt tidigare har levererats av företagen får ge vika för en ny situation där dagens konsument aktivt sprider information för att påverka andra konsumenters köpbeslut genom att prata med andra om köpupplevelser och specifika tjänsteleverantörer t ex genom diskussionsgrupper på Internet. För företagen är situationen kritisk då de håller på att mista sina maktmonopol på informationen. Innehållet i pratet är mycket viktigt för mottagarna av pratet eftersom de flesta kunder om de inte själva har upplevt företaget, skapar sina åsikter och förväntningar om företaget samt om dess varor och tjänster på basen av vad andra berättar om saken. Man kan då säga att pratet har fått en viktigare roll vid formandet av konsumtionsbeslutet. Syftet med denna studie är att skapa förståelse för vilka faktorer som initierar och påverkar prat hos kunder i långsiktiga relationer. På basis av de olika resultaten konstruerades en modell som förklarar sambandet mellan faktorerna. Modellens första del visar att prat initieras på basis av långvariga upplevelser i relationer mellan tjänsteleverantör och kund. Modellens andra del visar att pratet påverkas av kundens personliga karaktäristika och relationsrelaterade faktorer som upplevt engagemang i tjänstekategorin och i tjänsteleverantören samt i relationslängden. Modellens tredje del visar att kundernas prat varierar i aktivitet och omfång beroende på valensen av upplevelserna och beroende på om prataren har starka eller svaga band till pratmottagaren. Det är viktigt och mycket aktuellt att öka förståelsen för kunders kommunikationsbeteende ur ett relationsperspektiv. Ur företagsledningssynvinkel är det viktigt att förstå hur kunders prat påverkar utvecklingen av verksamhetsmiljön. Ur praktiskt tillämpningsperspektiv kan en ökad kunskap om pratet vidare hjälpa företaget att fokusera på vad kunderna anser vara viktigt i en relation. Genom att veta vad kunderna pratar om kan företaget förbättra svagheter i verksamheten, och därigenom minska på andelen negativt prat eller uppmuntra kunder att prata om fördelar som relationen med företaget ger åt kunden.

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