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An Interpretivist Understanding Of How Managers Navigate Among Antagonistic Discursive Repertoires Within The Customer-Manager Relationship

Abstract of the Student #Thesis: ROBERTO BELLO

Informed by agency theory and stewardship theory, this study theorizes the relationship between managers and customers through the various agentic roles that each party can perform: managers as principals, customers as principals, and managers as stewards. Each agentic role carries specific assumptions about how managers perceive customers and develop their marketing strategies.

Interestingly, while marketing strategy literature has evolved the role of the customer from a passive recipient of benefits (relationship marketing and market orientation) to an active participant who contributes to the development and implementation of marketing strategies (service-dominant logic and co-creation), it remains largely silent on the parallel transformation of managers’ roles and perspectives.

Therefore, the purpose of this study is to revisit the manager-customer relationship not as a static entity but as a dynamic social phenomenon emerging in the daily lives of managers. Marketing strategies are challenging to implement without a shared (intersubjective) frame of reference regarding the activities and tasks embraced by managers. This study argues for a systematic and in-depth exploration of the agentic role of managers and their assumptions about customers within the manager-customer relationship. It highlights the potential utility of a discourse approach, which systematically analyzes processes and traditions with a focus on control and customer relations, not merely as acceptance or rejection, but as subjective reconstructions of the manager-customer dynamic.

Through discourse analysis of in-depth interviews, this study identifies the characteristic navigation of mutually antagonistic discursive manager-customer relationships. It analyzes how these discourses were employed by managers when discussing customers and their roles within the relationship. Two principal, and somewhat overlapping, aims are discussed: first, the study examines the significance of antagonistic discourses for understanding the manager-customer relationship; second, it explores managers’ perceptions of their roles within this relationship and the impact on current marketing paradigms, specifically relationship marketing, market orientation, and service-dominant logic.

Ultimately, this study identifies the navigation characteristic of mutually antagonistic discursive manager-customer relationships and analyzes how managers deploy these discourses in discussing their roles and relationships with customers. It also revisits our understanding of current marketing paradigms, specifically relationship marketing, market orientation, and service-dominant logic, in light of this managerial navigation.

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