“I want you back”: On the strategic roles of boundary spanners in supplier switching-back processes
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 2020

This paper builds upon literature addressing boundary spanners and switching suppliers in order to explore an under-examined aspect of buyer–supplier relationships: how different individuals at multiple organisational levels affect processes by which firms return, or “switch back”, to former suppliers after breaches in their relationships. Our study followed a qualitative approach by applying an abductive research methodology to make sense of 85 semi-structured interviews with executives involved in the erstwhile buyer–supplier relationships that we investigated. We found that supplier switching-back processes (SSBPs) can be understood as constituted by a set of alignments and misalignments between boundary spanners (i.e. top management, purchasing and sales agents, engineers and technicians) in the organisations involved. Thus, peoples' interactions, or lack thereof, directly affect the possibility for buyers and suppliers to restore their severed relationships. We conclude that boundary spanners pursue seven distinct roles during different periods in SSBPs, roles that relate to three identified functions of boundary spanners in such processes. The paper closes by highlighting what our findings imply for business managers, limitations and some possible directions for future research.

Boundary spanner functions


Boundary spanners

Buyer–supplier relationships

Switching back

Relationship ending

Strategic roles


León Poblete

Uppsala universitet

Chalmers, Teknikens ekonomi och organisation, Service Management and Logistics

Anna Bengtson

Uppsala universitet

Industrial Marketing Management

0019-8501 (ISSN)

Vol. 91 234-245


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