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Perspective-taking and cooperation in customer–supplier relationships

Albert Caruana (Department of Corporate Communication, University of Malta, Msida, Malta)
Saviour Chircop (Department of Media and Communications, University of Malta, Msida, Malta)
Jirka Konietzny (Department of Marketing, University of Malta, Msida, Malta)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 25 November 2020

Issue publication date: 27 July 2021




Perspective-taking is an overlooked relational competence that matters to interaction, problem-solving and cooperation in inter-organizational buyer–seller relationships. This paper aims to distinguish perspective-taking from empathy with which it has often been associated. It uses aptitude theory to propose a conceptualization of perspective-taking consisting of perspective-taking ability and motivation components that are used to explore the scope of perspective-taking in customer–supplier relationships.


An experiment and survey, are conducted among customer managers to apply and test measures to capture the ability and motivation components of the perspective-taking aptitude. The two perspective-taking components are used to propose a 2 × 2 matrix that provides a four-type typology, labelled: “talented”, “ineffectual”, “fervent” and “indifferent”. Data are collected from a sample of senior managers of manufacturing firms responsible for the dyadic relationship with a business support agency.


The data supports the presence and distribution of the four typologies among customers in business relationships and regression analysis confirms the impact of the proposed perspective-taking typology types on customer–supplier cooperation. The different combinations of the perspective-taking dimensions of ability and motivation that make up the perspective-taking aptitude type result in different dispositions to cooperate. “Talented” and “ineffectual” members with high and low perspective-taking ability and motivation scores, respectively, provide the highest and lowest cooperation dispositions. “Fervent” and “indifferent” members occupy an intermediate perspective-taking aptitude on the typology, with the former impacting cooperation moderately and the latter not found to be significant.

Practical implications

Understanding counterparts, inferring their motives and anticipating reactions, is a critical capacity for mutual dyadic adjustments in customer–supplier relationships in business markets. Such an understanding of perspective-taking can prove useful to effective interaction, solution development and relationship building, as interacting managers belonging to different typology types exhibit different levels of cooperation. In addition, an understanding of perspective-taking can prove useful to identify the right talent that can foster effective interaction and solution development in customer–supplier relationships. It also raises the issue as to how best sellers can interact to influence the perspective-taking of buyers in their quest to achieve better solutions and cooperation.


Provides a useful supplement to theory by bringing perspective-taking, grounded in aptitude theory, as an essential relational competence in business marketing that can provide an additional explanation to cooperation and joint problem-solving in inter-organizational business relationships. The paper develops and proposes a typology of perspective-taking that brings together ability and motivation dimensions, operationalizes and assessed their measures and tests the impact of the proposed perspective-taking typology types on cooperation in customer–supplier interaction.



The authors wish to acknowledge and thank Noellie Brockdorff, PhD at the University of Malta, for her help in adapting the experimental research instrument used in this research.


Caruana, A., Chircop, S. and Konietzny, J. (2021), "Perspective-taking and cooperation in customer–supplier relationships", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 36 No. 7, pp. 1103-1115.



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