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Linking improvisational behavior to customer satisfaction: the relational dynamics

Magnus Hultman (Leeds University Business School, Leeds, UK)
Abena Animwaa Yeboah-Banin (Communication Studies, University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana)
Nathaniel Boso (School of Business, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 8 January 2019

Issue publication date: 7 October 2019




Contemporary sales scholarship suggests that salespersons pursuing customer satisfaction should improvise (think and act on their feet) to find solutions to customers’ emergent problems. A missing link in this literature, however, is the relational context within which improvisation takes place and becomes effective. This study aims to examine how the tone of the salesperson–customer relationship (whether cordial or coercive) drives and conditions salesperson improvisation and its implications for customer satisfaction.


The study tests the proposed model using dyadic salesperson–customer data from business-to-business (B2B) markets in Ghana. The relationships are tested using structural equation modeling technique.


The study finds that salesperson improvisation is associated with customer satisfaction. It also finds the extent of cordiality between salespersons and their customers predicts but does not enhance the value of improvisation for customer satisfaction. The reverse is true for customer exercised coercive power which is not a significant driver of improvisation but can substantially alter its benefits for the worse.

Practical implications

By implication, salespersons should improvise more to be able to satisfy customers. However, such improvisation must be tempered with a consciousness of the relationship shared with customers and the level of power they exercise in the relationship.


Because improvised behavior deviates from routines and may be unsettling for customers, improvising salespersons must first understand whether their customers would be willing to accommodate such deviations. Yet, the literature is silent on this relational context surrounding improvisation. This study, by exploring facilitating and inhibitory relational variables implicated in improvisation, addresses this gap.



This paper forms part of a special section “Value innovation in practice: leveraging learning in distant contexts”, guest edited by Fredrik Nordin and Nishant Kumar.


Hultman, M., Yeboah-Banin, A.A. and Boso, N. (2019), "Linking improvisational behavior to customer satisfaction: the relational dynamics", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 34 No. 6, pp. 1183-1193.



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