Instrumental client relationship development among top-ranking service professionals

Y.T.A. Taminiau, J.E. Ferguson, C. Moser

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Informal client contact forms a crucial part of the daily routine of service professionals, in particular among top-ranking professionals working for consultancy and accountancy firms. In this paper, we investigate how 34 service professionals develop informal client contact, by studying their networking styles. Our study shows many similarities in informal client contact between two groups of service professionals grouped by gender, but we also found subtle differences in what we coin instrumental and expressive relations. Contrary to gender stereotypes, we found that female service professionals tended toward instrumental networking styles, using professionalism and distance and allowing the high quality of their work compensate for network deficits, contingent upon their clients’ gender. Male service professionals drew on expressive relations to develop emotional bonding with their male clients in particular, but nonetheless toward instrumental purposes. Our study contributes to service industries literature by theoretically and empirically establishing the different informal networking styles between top-ranking service professionals, and the role of emotional bonding in particular. In doing so, the paper helps to better understand the intricacies of informal client contact as a critical dimension of the professional services industry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)789-808
Number of pages19
JournalService Industries Journal
Issue number15-16
Early online date20 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2016


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