Managing Client Contacts of Small KIBS Companies: Turning Technology Into Business

Managing Client Contacts of Small KIBS Companies: Turning Technology Into Business

Päivi Eriksson (University of Eastern Finland, Finland), Elina Henttonen (Aalto University, Finland) and Susan Meriläinen (University of Lapland, Finland)
Copyright: © 2011 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/jide.2011070101
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Abstract

This article investigates how small companies providing new-technology-based services (T-KIBS) manage their client contacts. Many KIBS companies have extensive and close contacts with their clients, to the extent that their services can actually be co-produced together with the clients. This study analyzes data from four empirical cases and provides new knowledge on the relevance, forms and consequences of managing client contacts. The data was collected through ethnographic field work and qualitative interviews with the owner-managers of four Finnish software service companies, which can also be called T-KIBS. The results show that although every company had its unique way of managing its client contacts, they all used their client contacts as a vehicle in turning technology into business.
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Introduction

Knowledge intensive business services (KIBS) is a relatively new and inconsistent concept or framework in the field of management studies. Although specific definitions of KIBS vary (Muller & Doloreux, 2009), we can say that KIBS consists of two sub-concepts: knowledge intensive and business services. The key content of these concepts is that much of the work done by these companies focuses on solving specific and unique problems, and that the companies have close relations with their clients (Muller & Zenker, 2001). Furthermore, intensive interaction between the service provider (often times a consultancy firm) and the client is a key aspect of doing business in the KIBS context. Therefore, knowledgeable and demanding clients are a valuable asset to KIBS companies. Knowledgeable and demanding clients support the development of new ideas, solutions, and technologies by sharing their requirements, strategic insights, information and knowledge. Although interaction with clients is central in all KIBS companies, the relationships with the clients vary from less interactive and distant ones to more interactive and intimate ones (Bagdoniene & Jakstaite, 2008). Our study focuses on the varying forms of these relationships by examining how small companies providing knowledge intensive business services manage their client contacts.

Toivonen (2006) has listed the following industries as typical KIBS industries: IT services, R&D services, technical consultancy, legal, financial and management consultancy and marketing communications. The companies that we examine in this article represent the first category: IT services. A specific feature of the companies of our study is that they are led by women owner-managers. Services in general are often characterized as a female-typical area of the business life (Greene, 2003). Also in Finland, a vast majority of Finnish women-owned and women-led companies operate in the service businesses (Kyrö et al., 2002). IT services and KIBS companies do not, however, represent the mainstream of female-typical service companies. We have shown in our previous studies that, unlike many other women-led businesses, the women-led KIBS companies of our study are growth-oriented and pursue various kinds of success strategies (Eriksson et al., 2008a, 2008b). We have also concluded that the business context (KIBS, IT services) seems to be a strong defining factor in how the women-led companies of our study operate.

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