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Comply or defy? An empirical investigation of change requests in buyer-supplier relationships

Jody L. Crosno (Department of Marketing, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, United States.)
Robert Dahlstrom (Department of Marketing, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, United States and Department of Marketing, Center for Advanced Research in Retailing, Oslo, Norway.)
Chris Manolis (Department of Marketing, Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio, United States.)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 1 June 2015




The purpose of this study is to examine change requests in buyer-supplier relationships. Change requests arise when a channel partner wants an addition or alteration to the agreed-upon deliverable. Although these requests are intended to enhance consumer satisfaction and supply chain performance, they complicate development and production processes and may delay time to market. Responses to change requests may embody compliance or malice, yet research to date has not examined these requests in interfirm relationships. To this end, the authors examine supplier reactions (compliance and opportunism) to change requests made by the buying firm.


Survey data gathered from 118 third-party developers (i.e. suppliers) reporting on their relationship with the software buyer provide an initial test for the authors’ proposed model.


The results of a path analysis indicate that change requests are related positively to supplier compliance with those requests and supplier opportunism. Outcome-based control decreases supplier compliance when there are extensive change requests. Behavioral control, in contrast, increases supplier compliance particularly when the buyer provides support for the requested changes.

Research limitations/implications

Future research should examine relational governance and ex ante control mechanisms as alternatives to outcome-based and behavioral control.

Practical implications

The authors’ results suggest that buyers requesting extensive changes should use behavioral control mechanisms and provide support to the supplier implementing the changes.


The authors provide a preliminary examination of suppliers’ reactions to change requests made by buying firms. The authors argue that these requests may limit the autonomy of the supplying firms, creating reactance effects. The authors investigate outcome-based control, behavioral control and buyer support as factors that influence supplier reactions to change requests.



The first and second authors dedicate this publication to Professor Chris Manolis, our colleague who lost his battle with depression in the past year. Chris was an articulate, affable colleague. The authors treasure the time they spent with Chris, and they hope that this dedication prompts others to be cognizant of the mental health challenges we all face. The first author acknowledges gratefully the financial support provided for this project by University Senate Committee on Research and Scholarship, West Virginia University.


Crosno, J.L., Dahlstrom, R. and Manolis, C. (2015), "Comply or defy? An empirical investigation of change requests in buyer-supplier relationships", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 30 No. 5, pp. 688-699.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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