The role of CSR in B2B customer relationships : A qualitative case study on a Swedish bank’s CSR initiative
This study aims to explore how CSR can serve as an influencing factor within interfirm relationships, more specifically, within the business relationship between a professional service company and their B2B-customers. CSR is a major topic in businesses today and has consequently become an elementary factor for organizations to implement in their strategies. Moreover, relationships have always been central to any business and even more today due to the heightened competition on the global market. This case study was directed upon investigating whether a specific CSR initiative taken by a professional service company, more specifically a Swedish bank, influences the relationships with its B2B-customers. CSR can be used in varying meanings and settings, however, this study is solely focused upon the societal dimension of CSR, as the chosen bank conducts the CSR initiative as a way of helping young unemployed adults.
The purpose of this study was to gain an in-depth understanding about the bank’s B2B- customer relationships, in order to explore and investigate whether the CSR initiative in any way influences the relationships. We did not aim at generalizing our findings, rather, we aimed at examining underlying patterns and perceptions within a specific social context. In order to meet the purpose, seven interviews with representatives from the bank and their B2B-customers were conducted. The research question that we aim to answer, is as follows: How does a CSR initiative of a professional service company influence the relationship with its B2B-customers?
It was found that the B2B-customers did not perceive the CSR initiative as influencing their total relationship with the bank, rather, they viewed it as a positive addition which improved the bank’s overall offer. However, some of the B2B-customers perceived an improvement in the bank’s service quality as a consequence of the CSR initiative. This was mainly due to the enhanced interaction with the bank and the additional services that were offered to the B2B-customers via the CSR initiative. From these empirical findings and the main theories used within this study, CSR and relationship marketing, an analysis model was derived. Although this model was applied within a CSR context, it holds the potential to be applied to other relationship influencing factors. Hence, future researchers are suggested to elaborate on this model.
Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Relationship Marketing, Service Industry, Relationship quality, Philanthropic dimension, Loyalty
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