A Dynamic Relationship Approach and Complex Exchange Study Within Service Activities


Frederic Jallat (2002) ,"A Dynamic Relationship Approach and Complex Exchange Study Within Service Activities", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, eds. Ramizwick and Tu Ping, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 48.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, 2002      Page 48


Frederic Jallat, Groupe ESCP-EAP, France

Definitions of service are numerous, fragmented and inevitably imperfect. Service is simultaneously a process, a social interaction, a relation and an intangible result. In the framework of service activities, there is no clear division between production and exchange, no clear distinction between process and result (Berry and Parasuraman, 1991).

However, whatever the accepted definition, service is primarily defined as a complex system of interfaces and exchanges and many authors have stressed the nature and characteristics of the relations which link companies with their customers (Irons, 1993; Gr÷nroos, 1994; Normann, 2001).

The aim of this exploratory article is to offer several useful paths of thought on a "widened" approach to the notion of interface, taking into account several types of agent in the exchange, parties involved in the process of fulfilment of the provision of service and in its result (Payne et al., 1993; Gummesson, 2002). In order to do this, we organise our thought around two dimensions which seem essential in interface management and take into account a strictly relational element on the one hand and a symbolic and cultural element on the other. These two dimensions are, of course, closely linked and relatively difficult to isolate. In fact, it is difficult to ignore the cultural dimension of a company or the perceptual and social nature of exchange in a relational perspective just as it seems normal to consider the relational element as one of the principal carriers of signs and image of the service.

I. Relational Added Value: Towards a More "Extensive" Definition of Interface Systems between Agents

We can state that in order to achieve a satisfactory level of relational added value, the company must call up all its human resources directly or indirectly concerned by the relation. This collective achievement is determinant: relational added value is effectively a "collective result", a real investment repeated by a variety of individuals who do not necessarily belong to the organisation. Contrary to a simple "binary" approach, this added value is like a form of network between the client, the company and a variety of other possible economic agents (Payne et al., 1993; Normann, 2001).

Breaking with classic economic approaches, the reinstatement of interaction and negotiation naturally lead researchers to consider psycho-sociological, ethnological or even sometimes philosophical approaches which are more complex or "extensive". Two case studies BSarvana Chain of Eateries in India and Orly Catering in France- illustrate how interfaces can sometimes be viewed very extensively and must fit in with other agents which are often the "motors" of the process of fulfilment of the service and of its outcome.

II. Perceptual Added Value: Towards Better Management of Interface Systems, Clients and Signs

The perceptual value of a service corresponds to the group of symbols, meanings and codes conveyed by the company. If we consider that the company’s image is in fact a collection of intentional signs or symbols, then the company must also organise its interface systems and its relational methods with a view to creating on a long-term basis a perceptual territory, which is the main means of competitive differentiation and the most important source of protection in the service industry.

In reality, the rules of service organisation are "relational challenges" as well as symbolic and cultural exchange systems if we state that culture can be seen as a metalanguage at the centre of the exchange and communication process; a sort of rule of communication, which implicitly indicates the way agents will interact within an exchange (see, for example, Usunier, 2000).

Service, as a social process, naturally conforms to a "perceptual" definition of value and relation. The putting in contact of clients who have affinities and common view points and tastes creates value and can create rapid and long-lasting success for the company in its market. We attempt to show the interest of "tie values" in two other case studies BUSAA and Whole Foods Market.


Through an essentially exploratory study, we try to enrich and further thought and approaches related to interface management and relationship marketig in the service industry. Since the very essence of service is linked to relations and exchanges, it seems important that each agent, who directly or indirectly influences the running of the process and the carrying out of the service, should be taken into consideration (Palmer, 2002). A well carried out analysis of these involved parties and ties constitutes a major source of innovation and differentiation on the market of intangibles.

Intangibility also aids and encourages the "symbolic and cultural anchorage" of the provision of service. As such, we show that the perceptual and symbolic components of the interface could also be strong means of competitiveness of the service company and essential elements of competitive differentiation and of strategic positioning. Apart from the cultural or "tribal" approach which we attempt to underscore, other elements of interface (aesthetics, design, technology, etc.) take on their importance in a competitive perspective of service activities.


Berry L.L., A. Parasuraman, (1991), *Marketing Services: Competing Through Quality+, The Free Press, New York

Gronroos C., (1994), "From Marketing Mix to Relationship Marketing: Towards a Paradigm Shift in Marketing", Asia-Australia Marketing Journal, vol. 2, n¦ 1, (August).

Gummesson E., (2002), "Relationship Marketing in the New Economy", Journal of Relationship Marketing, vol. 1, n¦ 1.

Irons K., (1993), "Managing Service Companies: Strategies for Success", The Economist Intelligence Unit, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.

Normann R., (2001), "Reframing Business: When the Map Changes the Landscape", John Wiley & Sons, Chichester.

Palmer A., (2002), "The Evolution of an Idea: An Environmental Explanation of Relationship Marketing", Journal of Relationship Marketing, vol. 1, n¦ 1.

Payne A., M. Christopher, M. Clark, H. Peck, (1993), "Relationship Marketing and the Relationship Management Chain", Asia-Australia Marketing Journal, vol. 2, n¦ 1, (August).

Usunier J. C., (2000), "Marketing across Cultures", Prentice Hall, Harlow, 3rd ed.



Frederic Jallat, Groupe ESCP-EAP, France


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5 | 2002

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