University of Oulu

Arslan, A., Golgeci, I., Khan, Z., Ahokangas, P. and Haapanen, L. (2021), "COVID-19 driven challenges in international B2B customer relationship management: empirical insights from Finnish high-tech industrial microenterprises", International Journal of Organizational Analysis, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOA-04-2021-2719

COVID-19 driven challenges in international B2B customer relationship management : empirical insights from Finnish high-tech industrial microenterprises

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Author: Arslan, Ahmad1; Golgeci, Ismail2; Khan, Zaheer3;
Organizations: 1Department of Marketing, Management and International Business, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2Department of Business Development and Technology, Aarhus University, Herning, Denmark
3Business School, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
4Martti Ahtisaari Institute, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.2 MB)
Persistent link: http://urn.fi/urn:nbn:fi-fe2021082544220
Language: English
Published: Emerald, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-08-25
Description:

Abstract

Purpose: This paper aims to focus on the influences of the COVID-19 pandemic on business-to-business (B2B) firms’ relationship initiation and customer relationship management in an under-explored and unique context of high-tech industrial microenterprises. The authors analyze the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in the specific context of B2B relationship initiation and customer relationship management dynamics by examining Finnish B2B industrial microenterprises.

Design/methodology/approach: The paper uses exploratory in-depth case studies undertaken in three Finnish industrial microenterprises to analyze the influences of the COVID-19 pandemic on their new business relationship initiation and relationship management with the current customers.

Findings: The case firms quickly adjusted to the “new normal” and used a number of technological resources, including online meetings and three-dimensional demonstrations, among others. A key reason for this quick adjustment was them being microenterprises. However, despite this, lack of access to customer sites remained a hindrance as their products need to fit certain production processes, which cannot be done without physical visits. Furthermore, the development of trust with new customers, especially those based in emerging markets, was challenging due to the lack of physical meetings and site visits.

Research limitations/implications: The research highlights the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to B2B relationships and gives an account of the changing dynamics of relationship initiation and customer relationship management amid technological and societal disruptions. It also highlights the continued role of personal relationships and psychical meetings in such relationships. As such, the research informs B2B research that examines the role of personal relationships in B2B marketing.

Practical implications: The study offers industrial microenterprise executives insights into how to face and tackle COVID-19 driven challenges in B2B customer relationship management and how to integrate technological tools in relationship management practices while understanding where face-to-face meetings are indispensable.

Originality/value: The study demonstrates areas in which virtual tools can and cannot be substitutes for conventional means of B2B relationship initiation and customer relationship management across developed and emerging markets. It also highlights the specificities of industrial microenterprises and their business development and customer relationship management dynamics mechanisms, a research area that has been rather ignored by prior studies.

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Series: International journal of organizational analysis
ISSN: 1934-8835
ISSN-E: 1758-8561
ISSN-L: 1934-8835
Volume: In press
DOI: 10.1108/IJOA-04-2021-2719
OADOI: https://oadoi.org/10.1108/IJOA-04-2021-2719
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 512 Business and management
Subjects:
Copyright information: © 2021, Ahmad Arslan, Ismail Golgeci, Zaheer Khan, Petri Ahokangas and Lauri Haapanen. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/legalcode
  https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/