Strategic Management of Customer Relationships-A Network Perspective on Key Account Management
Abstract: This thesis deals with the key account management theme. The traditional view of key account management takes its roots in company practice and considers key customer accounts to be large complex customers with high financial returns - hence the notion of key - for the supplier firm. The role of key account management is considered to be that of understanding the characteristics and needs of thes key customers, then adapting the supplier organisation to better serve them, with a view to optimising on revenues. The nature and value of relationships with key customers per se receives little attention. The nature and value of networks of relationships influencing these relationships with key customer accounts is given even less consideration. Also, very little consideration is given to the strategic companty setting in which these key customers are managed. Taking these factors into account, the end result is complexity which goes beyond the simple issue of understanding the customer's organisational characteristics. The main purpose of the thesis is to provide a better understanding of the nature of key customer accounts and the forces at play when handling relationships with them. The empirical base used in the thesis comprises five papers with focus on important supplier-customer relationships. The main findings are the following: important customers earn their "key" status due to their value to the supplier across multiple dimensions, not just financial. This value comes partly from simple exchange of resources with the customer, partly from value generated within and by the relationship itself, and partly from the value of the network accessed via the relationship. As a result three corresponding levels of management exist, and no clear dividing line allows separation of the handling of key accounts from handling of the customer base overall. Consequently a proposal is made which suggests that an SMCR - Strategic Management of Customer Relationships - approach is to be preferred to a KAM approach.
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