Supplier relational effort in the buyer-supplier relationship

Sanna Nieminen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisMonograph


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.
Translated title of the contributionSupplier relational effort in the buyer-supplier relationship
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Tanskanen, Kari, Supervising Professor
  • Tanskanen, Kari, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-4395-1
Publication statusPublished - 2011
MoE publication typeG4 Doctoral dissertation (monograph)


  • buyer-supplier relationship
  • value creation in business relationships
  • relational effort
  • social exchange
  • attractiveness
  • relationship quality


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