Striking the Right Balance: Designing Service to Enhance Business-to-Business Relationships

Ruth N. Bolton, Amy K. Smith, Janet Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


This article explores how the exchange of social resources delivered by service employees and economic resources provided through service operations creates social and structural bonds that enhance business-to-business relationships. It describes an empirical study of experienced business customers of a large telecommunications company. The study shows that social bonds created by employee-delivered service have a greater influence on customers’ satisfaction with company representatives and perceived value, whereas structural bonds created through the exchange of economic resources (financial or operational) have a stronger effect on their overall satisfaction with the organization. Business customers’ responses to service design are moderated by the length, nature, and quality of customers’ prior experiences with the service organization. Moreover, value mediates the effects of both service and satisfaction on behavioral intentions. The findings provide guidance for managers on how to “strike the right balance” in deploying service personnel and structuring service operations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-291
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Service Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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