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Organisering för strategisk CRM: Lärande om kundrelationer i en B2B-organisation
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå School of Business and Economics (USBE), Business Administration. Företagsforskarskolan vid Umeå universitet.
2015 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In marketing research, customer relationship management (CRM) is often described as a strategy for collecting customer information through an IT- infrastructure in order to manage customer relationships (e.g. Boulding et al 2005; Keramati et al 2010; Nguyen and Mutum 2012). Most of the existing research within CRM has focused on IT-infrastructure and implementation issues rather than on how CRM can enable knowledge sharing among individuals and working teams. Difficulties regarding information and knowledge creation, as well as sharing knowledge in both formal and informal ways, are not particularly well addressed in CRM literature. Hence, this study adopts a holistic approach to CRM and aims to “Understand how a B2B-organisation organise for strategic CRM”, and “Investigate how organisational aspects can act as drivers or barriers for learning about customer relationships”. The holistic approach implies that organisational aspects (such as co-workers, organisational culture, internal processes and affordance, c.f. Finnegan and Currie 2010) should be captured and seen as integrated parts of strategic CRM together with the more tangible CRM- system. Besides that, this study attempts to answer the question, “How does a B2B-organisation work with CRM to learn about their customer relationships”.

Previous research has shown that intra-organisational problems emerge when implementing and using CRM with both researchers and software providers approaching CRM from a technological perspective with a heavy emphasis on IT-infrastructure (e.g. Bohling et al 2006; Coltman et al 2011). Despite its importance, IT-infrastructure is just one aspect that managers have to consider when making decisions about implementing and organising for CRM. From previous research we can learn that organisational aspects, such as co-workers, internal processes, and organisational culture (e.g. Finnegan and Currie 2010; Jayachandran et al 2005) are important to consider when implementing and using CRM. Thus, discovering how B2B- companies organise for strategic CRM necessitates the use of a holistic approach to CRM, based on the philosophy of relationship marketing (e.g. Grönroos 2008a; Nguyen and Mutum 2012; Storbacka and Lehtinen 2000).

The empirical context in this study is the accounting and auditing industry. During recent years Swedish accounting and auditing firms have faced changes in the macro environment due to changes in legislation, which hasviitransformed the industry to become more customer oriented and CRM has been brought to interest in many firms. Based on that, a third and more practitionary aimed aim for this study is to ”Identify for accounting and auditing industry relevant organisational aspects for use of CRM”.In the theory chapter I first review the philosophy of relationship marketing, highlights the differences between B2B- and B2C-contexts and shows the nature of B2B-relationships, where multiple parties often are involved in the relationship. The study then sheds light on current research streams in CRM-literature and identifies two major research streams, the technology- oriented one and an organisational-oriented one.

The thesis proceeds to review information, knowledge and learning domains and integrates relevant theoretical frameworks from these research areas into CRM-literature. The theory chapter rounds off by presenting and discussing “communities of practice” as an organisational approach that enables and cultivates learning in organisations.The study adopts an explorative research approach connected to the research question and purposes and the empirical inquiry is conducted through an abductive approach and investigates a large auditing and consulting firm, a major actor in the Swedish audit- and accounting business, during the time period of 2,5 years. The empirical data is comprised of 44 meeting observations of key account teams, as well as a sales group and 31 in-depth interviews with members of the groups. Moreover, several meeting observations with members of a sales team and a responsible-advisor team were conducted in one of the auditing firm ́s local offices to provide an understanding of how CRM as an organizational strategy is adopted and used by different individuals and groups working with different types of customers.In the analysis I built on the theoretical framework and case findings to empirically identify relevant themes connected to the customer relationships, to the development and learning processes in working teams and among individuals, and to intra-organisational prerequisites and structures. The identified themes were then further analysed in order to find out how CRM as a strategic approach is used to learn about customer relationships.

This study shows that managers have to integrate relevant intra- organisational aspects to be able to organise for and implement CRM with a purpose to generate learning about customer relationships in a successful way. While previous research have shown that the organizational aspects may vary depending on company-context, size and type of customers, this study suggests that managers should consider “strategic communities of practice” as an important strategy to enable knowledge sharing, and thusviiicultivate learning processes among individuals, groups and divisions. However, enabling and cultivating for strategic communities of practice is not suitable for all groups of individuals due to their work tasks, or what goals and objectives managers have with the particular group or team. This finding is important to address since CRM, when narrowly approached as an IT-infrastructure, does not capture all relevant information and results in a lot of important knowledge about customer relationships getting stuck in minds of smaller working groups - instead of being shared with colleagues in networks or communities of practice, and thus contributing to organisational learning about customer relationships.

The study shows that if CRM is to act as an enabler for relationship-specific knowledge sharing, managers have to enable interactive knowledge sharing among co-workers through for example communities of practice. These interactions, along with traditional information collection are strongly needed, especially in the context of B2B-services companies. To conclude, CRM-literature have to be re-examined to further incorporate discussions regarding learning processes and knowledge sharing to target a deeper, as well as a more holistic, understanding of customer relationships.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2015. , 242 p.
Studier i företagsekonomi. Serie B, ISSN 0346-8291 ; 87
Keyword [en]
Customer Relationship Management, CRM, B2B-relationships, Relationship Dynamics, Learning about customer relationships
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-107120ISBN: 978-91-7601-312-0OAI: diva2:847059
Public defence
2015-09-11, S205h, Samhällsvetarhuset, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2015-08-21 Created: 2015-08-19 Last updated: 2015-08-19Bibliographically approved

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