An application-based classification to understand buyer-supplier interaction in business services

Finn Wynstra, Bjorn Axelsson, Wendy van der Valk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Most existing classifications of business services have taken the perspective of the supplier as opposed to that of the buyer. To address this imbalance, the purpose of this paper is to propose a classification of business services based on how the buying company applies the service with respect to its own business processes.

The paper considers some specific aspects of the process of buying and exchanging business services, focusing on the everyday production and consumption of services as opposed to the initial purchasing and negotiation phases.

Earlier literature has developed similar, albeit less elaborate classifications, but does not provide detailed insight into how such classifications are related to differentiated buyer‐supplier interaction. This classification distinguishes between four business service applications; as a component, semi‐manufacture, instrument or consumable. For each of these four types of services, interaction has to achieve different objectives and consequently they differ with regards to required organizational resources in terms of required capabilities and buyer‐supplier interfaces.

Research limitations/implications
Primarily conceptual and exploratory in nature, this paper is intended as a review of existing literature and possible starting point for further empirical validation and theoretical refinement. The paper contends that the differences in application have a significant impact on interaction patterns, but this is not to say that other variables have no impact on buyer‐supplier interaction patterns. Subsequent research should seek to control for those other possible sources of variation.

Practical implications
The overall implication of this classification is that for different services, the buying company should assess how they are applied. Subsequently, it is relevant for firms to consider what functional aspects are crucial and who are likely to become, or who should be involved and to what extent, in the purchasing decision process and in the interactions that take place after the decision has been made.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)474-496
JournalInternational Journal of Service Industry Management
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • buyer-seller relationship
  • buyers
  • supplier relations


Dive into the research topics of 'An application-based classification to understand buyer-supplier interaction in business services'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this