Drivers and outcomes of relationship quality with professional service firms: An SME owner-manager perspective
Strong relationships are important, particularly for business partners dealing with business-to-business (B2B) professional service providers, as the quality of the relationship can serve as a proxy for evaluating the service delivery. Grounded in the RM paradigm, this study focused on this unique inter-firm business exchange between professional service firms (PSFs) and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in order to investigate the drivers and outcomes of relationship quality (RQ). Specifically, we utilized a mixed-methods approach to understand (i) the key dimensions of RQ and its drivers, (ii) the mechanism through which RQ affects relational outcomes (i.e. loyalty and willingness-to-pay premium price), and (iii) the moderating role of relationship duration and perceived risk among these relationships in a B2B professional service context. The results from a survey of 324 SME CEOs and/or owner-managers confirmed the importance of relationship value in mediating the effects of RQ and its outcomes, particularly in long-term relationships and under high-risk situations. The authors discuss the implications of the findings for theory and practice in the PSF context, and acknowledge the research limitations.