Previously published as: International Journal of Service Industry Management
Online from: 1995
Subject Area: Industry and Public Sector Management
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|Title:||Proactive diagnosis: how professional service firms sustain client dialogue|
|Author(s):||Jan Henrik Sieg, (Department of Management, Technology and Economics, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland), Alban Fischer, (Department of Management, Technology and Economics, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland), Martin W. Wallin, (Department of Management, Technology and Economics, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland), Georg von Krogh, (Department of Management, Technology and Economics, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland)|
|Citation:||Jan Henrik Sieg, Alban Fischer, Martin W. Wallin, Georg von Krogh, (2012) "Proactive diagnosis: how professional service firms sustain client dialogue", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 23 Iss: 2, pp.253 - 278|
|Keywords:||Client dialogue, Proactive diagnosis, Professional services, Relationship marketing|
|Article type:||Research paper|
|DOI:||10.1108/09564231211226132 (Permanent URL)|
|Publisher:||Emerald Group Publishing Limited|
|Acknowledgements:||The authors wish to thank Oliver Alexy, Stefan Haeflinger, Elisabeth Nevins Caswell, and Andreas von Vangerow for their very valuable comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. They would further like to thank the three anonymous reviewers and the editor for their constructive comments. The participation of numerous individuals from the case companies – who wish to remain anonymous – is gratefully acknowledged.|
Purpose – This paper seeks to contribute to the discussion of relationship marketing in professional services firms (PSF). The process of dialogical interaction with clients is central to relationship marketing. However, client dialogue may fall dormant if not properly cultivated by employees of the PSF, that is, by professionals. This inductive study aims to investigate how professionals sustain a fruitful client dialogue by proactively introducing additional client problems to the dialogue.
Design/methodology/approach – Extensive field research with a “Big Four” accounting firm and 11 client companies inductively generates a framework to describe how professionals engage in proactive diagnosis of client problems to introduce these problems to the client dialogue. The framework is grounded in 49 focused interviews with professionals and client managers, as well as supplementary interviews, observations, and firm documents.
Findings – The suggested framework consists of the components of proactive diagnosis (information-seeking and influence strategies), a trade-off that professionals must make among these components, several enablers of and constraints on proactive diagnosis, and key client concerns that professionals must address to introduce additional client problems.
Originality/value – Despite the importance of client dialogue for relationship marketing, recommendations about how professionals can sustain client dialogue over time remain limited. This study describes proactive diagnosis as one potential approach. It contributes to literature on relationship marketing in PSFs by showing how proactive diagnosis helps professionals overcome the problem of dormancy in client dialogue, complements personal selling, and extends the role of diagnosis beyond paid client assignments into the pre-selling phase.
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