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Why cannot we all just get along? Resolving customer-focused team interface conflicts in a B2B firm leveraging AHP-based multi-criteria decision-making

Chris I. Enyinda (Department of Marketing, Ajman University, Ajman, United Arab Emirates)
Charles Blankson (Department of Marketing and Logistics, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas, USA)
Guangming Cao (Department of Management, Ajman University, Ajman, United Arab Emirates)
Ifeoma E. Enyinda (Department of Marketing, Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Port Harcourt, Nigeria)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 11 May 2022

Issue publication date: 22 January 2023

707

Abstract

Purpose

Rising expectations for exceptional customer experiences demand strategic amalgamation of cross-functional, customer-focused teams (marketing/sales/service departments). However, the long history of interface conflicts between functional teams continues to attract research attention. Past research has given more attention to conflicts between marketing and sales teams than to triadic interface conflict between custom-focused teams and their sub-conflicts in a business-to-business (B2B) sales process. The purpose of this research paper is to quantify the triadic interface conflicts and associated sub-conflicts between customer-focused teams, discuss conflict resolution strategies and perform a sensitivity analysis (SA) to give a fuller account of functional team conflict.

Design/methodology/approach

Multi-criteria decision-making (MCDM) based in the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) is proposed for identifying and resolving conflicts in customer-focused team interfaces. A group of 30 managers of a large electronics company participated in this research. The authors collected the data from customer-focused team managers during training sessions on interface conflicts and conflict management/resolution strategies. The authors perform SA to test the robustness of conflict resolution strategy rankings.

Findings

The findings reveal that managers adjudge task as the most crucial conflict attribute driving teams apart, followed by lack of communication. For the sub-conflicts, managers considered how to do the task as the most important conflict attribute, followed by lack of regular meetings. For conflict resolution strategies, managers regarded collaboration or integration as the overall best strategy, followed by compromise. Leveraging the AHP-based MCDM to resolve customer-focused team interface conflicts provides managers with the confidence in the consistency and the robustness of these solutions. By testing the SA, it is also discovered that the final outcome stayed robust (stable) regardless when the priorities of the main criteria influencing the decision are increased and decreased by 5% in every combinations.

Research limitations/implications

This study examined only a large B2B company in the electronics industry in African and Middle East settings, focusing on interface conflicts among customer-focused departments. Future research could address these limitations.

Practical implications

This paper advances our understanding of customer-focused team interface conflicts in a B2B sales process. It also provides valuable insights on effective management of major and sub-interface conflicts. This paper provides a framework for and practical insights into how interface conflicts that are prevalent in marketing, sales and service sectors can be resolved to improve customer experience and business performance.

Originality/value

This study contributes to the literature by developing an AHP-based MCDM, which not only extends our conceptual understanding of the interface conflicts between customer-focused teams by emphasizing their triadic nature but also provides valuable strategies and insights into the practical resolution of such conflicts in a B2B firm’s sales process. Methodologically, SA is valuable to ensuring the robustness of the conflict resolution strategies’ rankings that will influence relevant pragmatic decision-making.

Keywords

Citation

Enyinda, C.I., Blankson, C., Cao, G. and Enyinda, I.E. (2023), "Why cannot we all just get along? Resolving customer-focused team interface conflicts in a B2B firm leveraging AHP-based multi-criteria decision-making", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 38 No. 3, pp. 568-592. https://doi.org/10.1108/JBIM-02-2021-0104

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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