Functions of Industrial Supplier Relationships and Their Impact on Relationship Quality
Although recent scholarly work on business relationships often discusses relationship quality as a major issue, especially with regard to the phenomenon of vendor stratification, there is still little empirical research on this important construct. In this paper, the authors provide a thorough conceptualization of relationship quality and its possible antecedents, i.e., the direct and indirect functions of the relationship for the customer. Drawing on an empirical base of 230 buyer questionnaires, the authors show that the extent to which a supplier fulfills direct and indirect functions in a relationship has a direct positive impact on the relationship quality perceived by the customer. This impact is especially strong when the customer can easily replace the supplier or, in other words, when the supplier faces competition. The findings are discussed and the authors provide managerial implications for decision-makers from both buyer and supplier organizations.
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