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Teleological sales and purchase approaches in complex business relationships – customers’ expectations before and perceptions after purchase

journal contribution
posted on 2018-01-01, 00:00 authored by R Rodríguez, G Svensson, S Román, Greg WoodGreg Wood

The purpose of this study is to examine the actions and interactions that take place before and after purchase between a service provider (service seller) and its customers (service buyers) in complex business relationships. Specifically, it is to examine customers’ expectations of the service provider’s service offer before purchase and the same customers’ perceptions of the service solution offered after purchase in a business-to-business (B2B) context.

This study adopted a mixed methods design, which combined data generated through in-depth interviews (both with service buyers and key informants from the service company), an online customer survey, analysis of textual documents and structured observations of buyer–seller interactions and actions. Both objective and subjective points of view at different stages of the investigation were collected.

The authors’ results show that, contrary to previous evidence in B2C service research, the customers’ perceptions of the service performance were not significantly related to their previous expectations. In this context, characterized by dynamic and constantly evolving processes and many parties (both from the buyer and the seller company) involved in the implementation process, service complexity may cause a lack of well-formed expectations regarding how the service will perform and its relevant performance attributes.

Research limitations/implications
This study suggests that the service models traditionally used to describe and explain customer service expectations and perceptions in relatively simple service contexts with final consumers are difficult to apply in B2B complex business relationships. Rather, scholars need to take a holistic, continuously evolving and adapted perspective when examining the formation of customer service expectations and their perceptions in B2B complex services.

Practical implications
There should be a teleological balance between sales and purchase approaches in B2B contexts to optimize the outcome of complex business relationships between service providers and service receivers. The authors suggest several recommendations to service providers to ensure that their salespeople do not create unrealistic and unachievable expectations in the minds of the service receivers. Service providers are also encouraged to develop formal cross functional teams (e.g. consisting of salespeople, service technicians and service support) based on mutual understanding and information sharing.

This study provides an alternative time-oriented understanding of the way customer expectations before purchase and their perceptions after purchasing a complex software solution in industrial markets formed through the lens of teleological framework. As such, this is the first empirical inquiry with this specific framework in B2B contexts making a relevant contribution to literature.



Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing






523 - 538


Emerald Publishing Ltd.


Bingley, Eng.





Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal