More is not Always Better: The Impact of Relationship Functions on Customer-perceived Relationship Value

Thomas Ritter, Achim Walter

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Customer–supplier relationships have been promoted as a source of value for customers and as a way for suppliers to differentiate. Customer-perceived relationship value (i.e., a customer's overall assessment of the benefits and sacrifices of a given relationship with a supplier) is driven by relationship functions (i.e., the co\ntributions a supplier makes to a customer's value-creation processes). Earlier research categorizes relationship functions into two groups: direct, operation-related functions and indirect, change-related functions. This research finds that indirect functions have less impact than direct functions. Given the widely discussed advantages of supplier involvement in customer innovation, and the importance of information, access to market actors and motivation, this study analyzes why change-related functions have less of an impact than operation-related functions. The empirical results reveal that change-related relationship functions have a non-linear, inverted u-shaped impact on relationship value, and that the degree of customer innovativeness moderates this impact. Thus, while an analysis of all relationship functions is necessary, suppliers wishing to optimize business relationships should pay particular attention to customer innovativeness. The non-linear impact of change-related relationship functions gives rise to several interesting avenues for further research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIndustrial Marketing Management
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)136-144
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Innovation
  • Relationship Function
  • Customer Perceived Value
  • Customer Innativeness

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