An empirical investigation of relationship development in professional business services
K M Karantinou
Purpose – Relationship development is presented as an optimal strategy across all sectors of economic activity, although relationships, and their appropriateness, vary by industry sector. In order to contribute to academic and managerial understanding of relationships in professional business services, this study aims to investigate the characteristics of relationship development in management consultancy.
Design/methodology/approach – Data collection involved semi-structured interviews with both consultants and clients and employed a multilevel perspective for the investigation of relationships.
Findings – The findings provide a more nuanced reading of relationships and relationship development. First, a distinction between within-project and between-projects relationships and the important strategic implications which flow from these two different types of relationships are identified. Second, a distinction between relationship-seekers and relationship-switchers, and the resource allocation decisions associated with managing these two different client groups are identified.
Research limitations/implications – This is an exploratory study based on a qualitative methodology and thus no claims are made about generalizability. The study primarily aimed to achieve a theoretical generalization. The emerging conceptualizations could be extended to and tested by other cases in future studies.
Practical implications – The study has implications for managers because of the insights it offers into the mechanisms for relationship development; the strategic value of relationships; what the clients have to say about relationships; and the elements that characterize successful long-term relationships.
Originality/value – The study contributes to relationship management theory within services marketing by offering a more refined understanding of company-client relationships, compared with the more generic interpretations of relationships which often characterize studies of relationship management.