COVID-19 Driven Challenges in international B2B Customer Relationship Management: Empirical Insights from Finnish High-Tech Industrial Microenterprises

Ahmad Arslan* (Corresponding Author), Ismail Golgeci, Zaheer Khan, Petri Ahokangas, Lauri Haapanen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose
This paper focuses on the influences of the COVID-19 pandemic on B2B firms’ relationship initiation and customer relationship management in an under-explored and unique context of high-tech industrial microenterprises. We analyze the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in a specific context of B2B relationship initiation and customer relationship management dynamics by examining Finnish B2B industrial microenterprises.
Methodology/Approach
The paper uses exploratory in-depth case studies undertaken in three Finnish industrial microenterprises to analyze the influences of the COVID-19 pandemic on their new business relationship initiation, as well as relationship management with the current customers.
Findings
The case firms quickly adjusted to the “new normal” and used a number of technological resources, including online meetings and 3-D demonstrations, among others. A key reason for this quick adjustment was them being microenterprises. However, despite this, lack of access to customer sites remained a hindrance as their products need to fit certain production
processes, which cannot be done without physical visits. Furthermore, the development of trust with new customers, especially those based in emerging markets, was challenging due to the lack of physical meetings and site visits.
Research Implications Our research highlights the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to B2B relationships and gives an account of the changing dynamics of relationship initiation and customer relationship management amid technological and societal disruptions. It also highlights the continued role of personal relationships and psychical meetings in such relationships. As such,
our research informs B2B research that examines the role of personal relationships in B2B
marketing.
Practical Implications
The study offers industrial microenterprise executives insights into how to face and tackle COVID-19 driven challenges in B2B customer relationship management and how to integrate technological tools in relationship management practices while understanding where face-toface meetings are indispensable.
Originality/Value/Contributions
The study demonstrates areas in which virtual tools can and cannot be substitutes for conventional means of B2B relationship initiation and customer relationship management across developed and emerging markets. It also highlights the specificities of industrial microenterprises and their business development and customer relationship management dynamics mechanisms, a research area that has been rather ignored by prior studies.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Organizational Analysis
Early online date19 Aug 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Aug 2021

Keywords

  • B2B relationships
  • COVID - 19
  • Customer relationship management
  • Micro enterprises
  • Trust

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'COVID-19 Driven Challenges in international B2B Customer Relationship Management: Empirical Insights from Finnish High-Tech Industrial Microenterprises'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this