Reaching the breaking point: a dynamic process theory of business-to-business customer defection

Thomas Hollmann, Cheryl Burke Jarvis, M J Bitner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Qualitative field research based on long depth interviews with business-to-business customers who defected from a supplier relationship is used to develop an integrated theoretical framework explaining how the defection decision process unfolds over time in business-to-business relationships. The authors develop a taxonomy of events, both internal and external to the relationship, that are proposed to create “defection energy,” or the motivation to move a customer from relationship status quo toward a defection decision. The framework illustrates how these internal and external events interact with the organization’s and the individual decision maker’s goals, practices, and values to engage a dynamic anchoring and updating mechanism based on accumulated defection energy that drives the process toward a decision threshold. The research offers marketers insights to improve defection management, including an understanding of how organizational and individual customer needs shape relationships; that defection decisions build as a result of multiple events over time, requiring a longer-term perspective on defection; and that defection decisions can be influenced by events outside the core product or service delivery process, suggesting that these decisions need to be understood within the broader context of the overall relationship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-278
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of the Academy of Marketing Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Business-to-business relationships
  • Customer defection
  • Customer relationship management
  • Process theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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