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Exploring the antecedents of preferential customer treatment by suppliers: a mixed methods approach

Lisa Hüttinger (Department of Technology Management – Innovation of Operations, University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands)
Holger Schiele (Department of Technology Management – Innovation of Operations, University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands)
Dennis Schröer (Department of Technology Management – Innovation of Operations, University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Article publication date: 2 September 2014

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to understand the factors that influence a supplier’s choice to treat selected customers more preferentially than others. Suppliers often lack the resources to treat all their customers equally, instead having to make choices to treat some customers as preferred. Empirical evidence indicates that preferential treatment by suppliers provides substantial benefits for the purchasing firm.

Design/methodology/approach

This study applies a mixed-methods approach. First, a qualitative analysis of a sample of buyers from an automotive manufacturer was conducted. In the second step, the findings were triangulated via a quantitative survey among key account managers of the automotive firm’s suppliers.

Findings

This paper is the first to provide quantitative data collected from a large sample of automotive suppliers about the drivers of preferential customer treatment. The authors were able to show that the growth opportunities for suppliers and customers’ operative excellence, reliability and relational behavior are factors that induce suppliers to award preferential customer treatment. In contrast, innovation potential for suppliers, customers’ support of suppliers, supplier involvement and contact accessibility do not show a significant effect on suppliers’ behavioral intentions toward preferential customer treatment.

Originality/value

The mixed-methods approach is introduced as a form of academic enquiry in supply chain management. The factors influencing preferential customer treatment by suppliers are explored in discussions with purchasers and validated in a subsequent survey among suppliers. Recommendations for managerial practice and theory are drawn.

Keywords

Citation

Hüttinger, L., Schiele, H. and Schröer, D. (2014), "Exploring the antecedents of preferential customer treatment by suppliers: a mixed methods approach", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 19 No. 5/6, pp. 697-721. https://doi.org/10.1108/SCM-06-2014-0194

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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