Variety in business-to-business services and buyer-supplier interaction: The case of cleaning services

Wendy van der Valk*, Finn Wynstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
88 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: The paper aims to empirically validate a recently developed typology to demonstrate that services that are similar in terms of technical content, but different with regard to how they are used by the buying company, require different buyer-supplier interaction processes. Design/methodology/approach: The paper conducts an embedded case study based on dyadic data collection to investigate the purchase of cleaning services by Netherlands Railways (NS) from two suppliers. These services differ with regard to how they are used by NS: as part of the value-proposition to customers (train and station cleaning) or as part of the support processes for NS (office cleaning). Findings: The paper finds that for a technically homogenous service, fundamental differences in required interaction arise as a result of different usage situations. These differences are reflected in the sourcing decision and the design of the service delivery management process. Research limitations/implications: Besides the general limits of single case studies regarding external validity, a specific limitation of the study is the limited number of supplier interviews conducted. Practical implications: In order to develop appropriate sourcing and service delivery management strategies, practitioners need to consider the use of the service purchased and how it relates to their value proposition. This research shows that pooling volume for services that are used differently may enable immediate price reduction but could reduce supplier performance and ultimately customer satisfaction. Originality/value: The case study and the validated typology complement the limited literature on the procurement of services transferred to the next level of customers in the supply chain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-220
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

The research underlying this paper was conducted with support from the Dutch Association for Purchasing Management, NEVI. The authors furthermore gratefully acknowledge NS for enabling the fieldwork. It should be noted that the research reported here concerns the situation regarding the purchase of cleaning services at NS as it was in 2006. The authors also acknowledge the useful comments of the participants at the 3rd IMP Journal Seminar in Trondheim, Norway.

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