Relationships in the purchasing of business to business professional services : purchasing occupational health services in the United Kingdom
Conceptual development in the purchasing of professional business services has been limited to date. A critical examination of purchasing in this specific context is necessary given the distinctive nature and characteristics of professional business services. In view of this map, this research explores the purchasing of professional business services, looking specifically at the purchasing of occupational health services. The occupational health services context is an ideal case context of study given the similar nature and service characteristics of these services when compared with other professional business services. In light of the current state of theory development, a post positivist approach to research emphasising the discovery and or the corroboration of theories in the path to theory development formed the basis of this research. In this regard, conceptual material was drawn from the related fields of services marketing and industrial goods purchasing. Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative tools, these concepts were applied in the context of purchasing occupational health services in a sample of 360 organisations that consisted of FTSE 350 companies and selected public sector organisations. Subsequently, through theoretical sampling, a range of buying situations particularly possible transactional ones in in-depth study of seven buyer and service provider dyads was undertaken. It was concluded that the relational models of purchasing were applicable to all cases studied in this specific context. However, in exploring the dynamics of relational purchasing, the relationships underpinning the process were found to be heterogeneous. An understanding of the dynamics of these relationships formed the foundation for a classification of ideal type relationships. This proposed typology represents the first step in developing a conceptual model for understanding inter-organisational interaction and relationships. Comparison of conceptual development at this level sets the stage for empirical testing through future research.