The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Supplier Relational Effort in the Buyer-Supplier Relationship

Sanna Nieminen

Doctoral dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the School of Science for public examination and debate in Auditorium TU1 at the Aalto University School of Science (Espoo, Finland) on the 9th of December 2011 at 12 noon.

Dissertation in PDF format (ISBN 978-952-60-4396-8)   [1906 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 978-952-60-4395-1)


Value is increasingly created in networks of organizations and inter-organizational relationships are in a vital role. Value creation is traditionally managed by the buying company with contracts which determine the rights and responsibilities of the business parties. For example, the supplier has to produce the products or services specified and the supplier is entitled to the agreed compensation. In close strategic buyer-supplier relationships considerable value is also created through actions that are not directly determined by the buyer-supplier contract.

Value creation in business relationships and the role of supplier relational effort in it is in the focus of this study. The research objective is to better understand value creation mechanisms in strategic business relationships. To achieve this objective, the following three research questions are investigated: 1) What kind of relational effort does the supplier make that creates value for the buyer? 2) Why does the supplier make this relational effort? and 3) What is the impact of supplier relational effort?. Social exchange theory is used here as it provides a basis for better understanding and explaining this type of non-contractual value creation.

In answer to the first research question four categories of supplier relational effort were identified: 1) customer-focused operations, 2) customer-focused internal development, 3) active interaction, and 4) joint development. Five factors were identified which explained the relational effort made by the supplier: 1) good strategic fit and matching expectations, 2) a customer-focused organizational culture and clear processes, 3) competence, attitude and motivation on the individual level, 4) the attractiveness of the buying company, and 5) current relationship quality and interaction. In addition, supplier relational effort was found to have a positive impact on how good or well-performing the actors perceive the buyer-supplier relationship and also on sales volume in the buyer-supplier relationship.

Keywords: buyer-supplier relationships, value creation in business relationships, relational effort, social exchange, attractiveness, relationship quality

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Last update 2011-12-09