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Industrial Marketing Management 66 (2017) 159–171

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Industrial Marketing Management

journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/indmarman

Fundamental transformations of trust and its drivers: A multi-stage approach MARK

of business-to-business relationships
Houcine Akrouta,⁎, Mbaye Fall Diallob
INSEEC Business School, Paris, France
Univ. Lille (IMMD), SKEMA Business School, EA 4112 - LSMRC, France


Keywords: This research tests a multistage model of trust in business-to-business (B2B) relationships. The model contains
Trust process three forms of trust, each with unique drivers and consequences for buyer–supplier relationships. An exploratory
Affective trust qualitative study (N = 38) and four quantitative studies (NTotal = 616) validate the distinct stages (N1 = 140,
Cognitive trust N2 = 144, N3 = 152) and provide an overall test of the model (N4 = 180), using structural equation modeling
Calculative trust
techniques. The results support the proposed modeling of the stages and highlight a positive effect of reputation
Multistage approach
on calculative trust. Conflict resolution, communication, and sympathy positively affect cognitive trust.
Buyer–supplier relationships
However, shared values do not significantly drive affective trust. Interdependence also exists among the three
trust forms, both directly and indirectly. That is, calculative trust does not affect investments in relationship or
confidential communication, but cognitive trust influences these constructs indirectly, through the mediation of
affective trust. Affective trust also leads directly to greater investments in relationship and generates additional
confidential communication.

1. Introduction Doney & Cannon, 1997; Ekici, 2013; Huang & Wilkinson, 2013), further
investigations of its evolving nature in B2B supplier–customer re-
Despite vast research into the concept of trust in the past few lationships are required (Huang & Wilkinson, 2013). In particular,
decades, it remains one of the most challenging concepts to study, though it develops gradually (Gabarro, 1978; Jap & Ganesan, 2000;
“worthy of more thorough analysis and a deeper understanding” Rempel, Holmes, & Zanna, 1985), trust generally is treated as a static,
(Gundlach & Cannon, 2010, p. 411). According to one recent survey, a rather than a process-based, phenomenon (cf. Dowell, Morrison, &
lack of trust leads to decreased profitability (cited by 65.5% of surveyed Heffernan, 2015). For example, to overcome issues of causality that
companies) and customer attrition (61.0%) (Deloitte, 2015). Moreover, arise in static trust studies (Seppänen et al., 2007), research might ac-
trust is a basic requirement for successful relationships in complex count for the evolving nature of trust. Furthermore, in addressing this
markets (Doney & Cannon, 1997; Lindgreen, 2003; Morgan & Hunt, void, research on trust also need to go beyond cognitivist approaches
1994; Palmatier, Dant, Grewal, & Evans, 2006; Seppänen, Blomqvist, & which are mainly based on knowledge and mechanisms of information
Sundqvist, 2007), with vast and varied benefits, such as lower trans- processing from beliefs and perceptions (Young, 2006).
action costs (Dyer & Chu, 2000; Gulati, 1995; Zaheer, McEvily, & With a process perspective, research should provide a framework in
Perrone, 1998), improved performance (Aurier & N'Goala, 2010; which relationship partners update their assessments over time and
Geyskens, Steenkamp, & Kumar, 1998; Jap, 1999; Kumar, Stern, & learn periodically about each other (Hardin, 1993).
Schrol, 1992), and buffers against detrimental effects (Harmeling, By considering a process approach as an effective means, we re-
Palmatier, Houston, Arnold, & Samaha, 2015). In business-to-business spond to calls for research, such as Hadjikhani and LaPlaca's (2013)
(B2B) settings, trust is even more critical, because the actors are rela- suggestion of better integration of the temporal dimension. In parti-
tively fewer, the switching costs are high and prohibitive, inter- cular, time dimensions and relationship stages can be necessary, pre-
dependence is common, and the buying process is long and complex. requisite information to support customer relationship management,
Although some of the studies in this vast research stream assess trust because relationships survive by managing whichever force is dominant
longitudinally, examining long, trusting relationships between associ- at a given stage (Johnston & Hausman, 2006; Zhang, Watson,
ates or between suppliers and customers (Anderson & Weitz, 1989; Palmatier, & Dant, 2016). According to Seppänen et al. (2007, p. 261),

Corresponding author at: Inseec Business School, Inseec Research Center, 27 Avenue Vellefaux, 75010 Paris, France.
E-mail address: hakrout@inseec.com (H. Akrout).

Received 22 April 2016; Received in revised form 1 August 2017; Accepted 7 August 2017
Available online 21 August 2017
0019-8501/ © 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
H. Akrout, M.F. Diallo Industrial Marketing Management 66 (2017) 159–171

studies of “the temporal element of trust in inter-organizational studies” influenced by inputs, and affect outcomes (Zand, 1972). A psycholo-
are scarce. They thus call for research that investigates the underlying gical approach to trust also contributes to these conceptualizations, by
drivers, moderating factors, and consequences of trust over time. This characterizing it as transformative along a longitudinal path
topic has been tackled theoretically by Huang and Wilkinson (2013) (Lewicki & Bunker, 1995; Rempel et al., 1985; Shapiro, Sheppard, &
and empirically by Ekici (2013). However, Ekici's longitudinal study Cheraskin, 1992). In Lewicki and Bunker's (1995) three-stage con-
does not unpack the forms of trust and instead reveals mainly that ceptualization for example, situational trust develops, starting with a
buyers do not differentiate trust in short- and long-term relationships, a form based on calculus, then knowledge, and finally identification. The
result that is likely due to the study's focus on the overall level of trust previous stages must be complete before subsequent ones emerge.
and its duration, rather than on its specific forms or different stages. Yet Because B2B relationships evolve, we argue that this con-
at the moment buyers evaluate a relationship construct, such as trust, ceptualization of interpersonal trust within a process perspective is
they are inherently in some particular relationship stage. Assuming appropriate in a B2B context too. Marketing literature examines trust at
(implicitly or explicitly) that all respondents are in the same stage can interorganizational and interpersonal levels, and the results generally
bias the results (Terawatanavong, Whitwell, & Widing, 2007). Dowell indicate that interpersonal trust predicts both customer behaviors and
et al. (2015) examine trust and its effects on business relationship organizational performance better than interorganizational trust
outcomes over time but include only affective and cognitive trust and (Palmatier et al., 2006).
early and mature relationship stages (i.e., less or > 12 months).
In response, we investigate the transformation of trust by con- 2.2. A multistage approach to trust
sidering multiple relationship lifecycle stages in supplier–buyer re-
lationships and different forms of trust. With a process perspective that Similar to the types of trust that can be generated within organi-
encompasses both the trust-building process and manifestations of zations (Lewicki & Bunker, 1995), we consider three forms of trust in
trust, this research integrates calculative trust, cognitive trust, affective interorganizational business relationships: calculative (e.g., cautious'
trust, and behavioral trust (as a proximal outcome); tests the various behaviors underlying deterrent sanctions), cognitive (e.g., predicting
drivers and interrelationships among the trust forms; and delineates the the other party's behaviors), and affective (empathy, security, emo-
effects of each trust form on behavioral trust. Furthermore, we con- tional bonds). In addition to addressing them separately, we integrate
trolled for the effects of various relevant factors in B2B relationships these forms to define trust broadly as calculative and non-calculative
(sector, size, buyer position, relationship duration) to ensure that the cognitions, sentiments, or actions related to a party's willingness to be
results are robust and not subject to heterogeneity issues. Drawing from vulnerable to another party, predicated on positive expectations of the
various theoretical perspectives (social psychology, economics, orga- other party's intentions and behaviors.
nizational science), we strive to conceptualize fundamental transfor- Going beyond a strictly cognitivist approach, our integrative defi-
mations of trust and test a multistage model of trust in a B2B context nition (calculative, cognitive and affective forms of trust) contributes to
across relationship stages and in different conditions. a better understanding of the evolution of trust. By adding temporality,
In so doing, we investigate how trust changes over the course of a the trust concept becomes increasingly complex and demands a new
relationship, by quantitatively assessing the differentiated forms of trust framework to define and characterize it. Dwyer, Schurr, and Oh's
and their drivers with respect to the different relationship stages. (1987) concept of a relational cycle provides an interesting option to
Relational mechanisms may have unequal impacts throughout the unite different approaches, from a process perspective; Jap and
lifecycle stages, so the identification of these mechanisms and the stage Anderson (2007) validate this framework. Dwyer et al.'s model in-
in which they operate most commonly can extend theory while also dicates that B2B exchanges include five stages: awareness, exploration,
helping managers perform their customer relationship management expansion, maintenance, and termination. The first and last stages do
more accurately. We test our proposed multistage model of trust in B2B not involve tangible exchanges and do not feature trust. In contrast, the
relationships with four quantitative studies. In addition to testing the exploration, expansion, and maintenance stages encourage the devel-
links among the various forms of trust, concomitant to relationship opment of trust, because transactions, both economic and personal,
development, we investigate sequences of transformation and con- occur during these stages. During exploration, parties determine whe-
nectedness across the three forms of trust over the lifecycle stages, as ther their counterpart is capable and willing to deliver positive outputs;
well as the potential moderating effects of the firm's industrial sector if so, they enter into exchanges to develop a basic working relationship
and relationship duration. Accordingly, in the next section, we outline that accords with their expectations (Morgan & Hunt, 1994). During
the theoretical foundations of the drivers that transform trust over time, expansion, interdependencies develop among them, resulting from the
before examining a multi-form conceptualization of trust in suppli- fulfillment of promises and satisfaction with the other party's perfor-
er–customer relationships. mance. If both parties are satisfied with the outcomes of the colla-
boration, as afforded by trust, they can enter into an advanced, main-
2. Literature review and conceptual model tenance stage.
Because relationships evolve at different speeds, we classify ex ante
2.1. Process perspective of trust during B2B exchanges relationships according to their stage in Dwyer et al.'s (1987) model,
instead of by duration. As Zhang et al. (2016) underscore in their
A process approach to trust appears in social psychology, sociology, longitudinal study, not all interfirm relationships exhibit the same
and organizational studies, which acknowledge the active or dynamic changes over a six-year period; some even remain in the exploration
aspects of trust, such that trust evolves within relationships, rather than stage. For the current study, we asked respondents to identify the stage
existing idly (Mayer, Davis, & Schoorman, 1995). According to of their current relationship with a chosen supplier, after providing
Lindgreen (2003), process-based trust develops through a spiral of re- them with descriptions of each stage. This choice reflects our recogni-
inforcements, reflecting the behavior of each partner and the history of tion that not all relationships develop affective-based or cognitive trust,
their interactions, such that it can evolve from fragile to resilient. Two beyond calculus-based trust, and some of them stabilize on the basis of
main streams of research contribute to conceptualizations of trust as a calculus trust alone (Lewicki & Bunker, 1995).
dynamic process. The first examines how trust changes slowly over
time, and it establishes different stages (Gabarro, 1978; Rempel et al., 2.3. Hypotheses
1985), such that trust evolves across levels, through standardized and
routinized exchanges. A second research stream instead views trust Over relationship development stages (Dwyer et al., 1987), the
from an interactive perspective, such that synergies develop, are three forms of calculative, cognitive, and affective trust are linked and

H. Akrout, M.F. Diallo Industrial Marketing Management 66 (2017) 159–171

sequential; each stage results from the accomplishment of the previous the parties, creating a type of cognitive asset characterized by com-
one. For example, in the maintenance stage, calculative and cognitive munication that involves accurate information exchanges that dis-
trusts persist as foundations, but affective trust is the dominant form. courage opportunism and the need for monitoring. Following Lewicki
This view is supported, for example, by Luhmann (1979, pp. 44–45) and Bunker (1995), we argue that the type of control applied largely
who underlined that “Once mutual trust has been safely established, it differentiates calculative from cognitive forms of trust. That is, the
would be blatantly tactless-if not a quite disastrous lapse—if one of the former is based on deterrence as an implicit behavioral control (e.g., “I
participants wanted to return to the learning stage and to use the trust the seller because I can control what I want it to do and reduce the
cautious strategies which were sensible at that early juncture.” The risk of unpredictability”). The latter is based on information (e.g., “I
different forms of trust thus can be presented on a continuum, from trust the seller because I know enough about it without monitoring”).
exploration to maintenance stages. The exploration stage is character- With greater information, cognitive trust ultimately is determined by
ized by calculative trust, affective trust occurs during the maintenance communication, sympathy, and conflict resolution.
stage, and in between these two extremes, we find cognitive trust. We The positive link between communication, or “the formal as well as
also consider behavioral trust a consequence of affective trust. informal sharing of meaningful and timely information between firms”
(Anderson & Narus, 1990, p. 44), and trust is well established in em-
2.3.1. Calculative trust pirical studies (Doney & Cannon, 1997; Geyskens et al., 1998;
Trust emerges initially from calculations, at the interorganizational Morgan & Hunt, 1994). Through information sharing, a buyer and seller
level. The asymmetric nature of initial interactions and the relatively come to understand the outcomes of their respective behaviors. Similar
short history of previous exchanges leads to markedly prudent beha- to concepts of likeability or congeniality, sympathy refers to a human
viors (Lewicki & Bunker, 1995). The calculative weighting of gains and relationship, based on “the buyer's assessment that the seller is friendly,
losses highlights any disparity between expected and realized positive nice, and pleasant to be around” (Doney & Cannon, 1997, p. 40). The
outcomes during early transactions. Axelrod (1984) suggests that de- relationship between sympathy and trust also has been assessed in prior
terrence is an inherent component of trust, so calculative trust refers to literature (Moorman, Deshpande, & Zaltman, 1993; Swan, Trawick,
an actor's willingness to be vulnerable because deterrents prevent a Rink, & Roberts, 1988). With the exception of Moorman et al. (1993)
partner from behaving opportunistically. One type of trust, associated who found that sympathy (i.e., congeniality) has negative effect on
with forfeiture, might create sanctions that regulate outcomes; re- trust, numerous cross-sectional studies affirm the relevance of the
lationship termination by one side, without the other side having a say personal characteristic of sympathy as an important precursor to
in the matter (Huang & Wilkinson, 2013), also reflects the calculations trust (Abosag & Naudé, 2014; Doney & Cannon, 1997; Nicholson,
that companies make to encourage partners to behave in a trustworthy Compeau, & Rajesh, 2001). It tends to encourage favorable attitudes
manner. However, being able to calculate such outcomes neither pre- toward others, leading to enhanced interpersonal trust (Crosby,
cludes nor substitutes for trust (cf. Williamson, 1993). Therefore, cal- Evans, & Cowles, 1990; Rotter, 1980). Finally, conflict resolution refers
culative trust offers protection and more methods for reacting to un- to the buyer's attitude toward the possibilities of resolving conflicts
trustworthy behaviors, but it still constitutes a valid form of trust. with the seller (Frazier & Rody, 1991). The manner in which conflicts
Calculative trust is particularly appropriate in relation to assess- get managed and resolved (e.g., coercion vs. non-coercion) encourage
ments of whether expected losses exceed expected gains. That is, eco- or discourage buyers from expressing disagreements with the supplier.
nomic utility is influenced by evaluations of expected gains and losses, If a buyer perceives that the supplier is dealing constructively with
but during the initial (exploration) stage, monitoring is common, and potential conflicts and tries to find mutually acceptable solutions, trust
calculative trust involves assessments of the risk in response to positive should develop (Ndubisi, 2011). Further expressions of disagreement
expectations of being involved in the relationship. Reputation effects then can help overcome misunderstandings and induce continued trust
also help explain how partners who have no previous exchange re- development. In contrast, if a buyer perceives that the supplier uses
lationships can start collaborating by trusting the information gained pressure or coercion, it likely adopts a more prudent, defensive strategy
from past events (Dasgupta, 1988; Kreps, 1990) or information from a that hampers trust development (Schurr & Ozanne, 1985). In addition
third party that confirms the partner's capabilities and motives (Abbott, to depending on available knowledge to assess whether another party
1993; Gundlach & Cannon, 2010). According to Khodyakov (2007, p. deserves the trust placed in it (Johnson & Grayson, 2005), cognitive
126), “the decision to trust another person is made in the present and is trust is based on external and internal (i.e., calculative trust) varieties of
affected by the partner's reputation, which represents the past, and by knowledge, which occurs primarily at the interpersonal level. Thus, in
the expectation of possible tangible and/or nonmaterial rewards, which the expansion stage:
represent the future.” This reputation mechanism transcends the eco-
H2. (a) Conflict resolution, (b) communication, and (c) sympathy have
nomic sphere and implicitly involves non-economic resources, as are
positive effects on cognitive trust.
characteristic of some social networks (Ford, Gadde, Hakansson, &
Snehota, 2003; Wuyts & Geyskens, 2005). For example, a buyer would H3. Calculative trust has a positive effect on cognitive trust in B2B
avoid a supplier who has defected from exchanges with other buyers. A relationships.
positive reputation instead signals lower risk and greater reliability.
Even if not every actor wants to maintain a good reputation, it offers
strong benefits, such that the related assumption of trust is more likely, 2.3.3. Affective trust
in contrast with the transaction cost economics (TCE) view that all Identification and affective trust are similar, in that they occur during
actors treat others with equal suspicion as a safeguard against possible latter stages of relationships and are based on positive emotions experienced
opportunists (Williamson, 1996). As Johnson and Grayson (2005, p. during prior interactions (Johnson & Grayson, 2005). They reflect ex-
502) argue, a “customer who is not yet sufficiently familiar with a changes of bonds and devotion that create mutual, personal connections
service provider may extrapolate his/her opinions directly from the between the parties (Andersen & Kumar, 2006). We anticipate that this type
reputation of the firm.” Therefore, in the exploration stage: of trust represents a psychological state, similar to enduring attachments or
a sense of support, which coincides with the vulnerability associated with
H1. The supplier's reputation has a direct positive effect on the
trust in long-term relationships (Akrout, Diallo, Akrout, & Chandon, 2016).
calculative trust of the buyer.
Over time, “affect influences higher stages or ‘deeper’ levels of trust”
(Williams, 2001, p. 379), so interpersonal, emotional connections develop
2.3.2. Cognitive trust in the long term. Such trust extends beyond that characterized by calcula-
During the expansion stage, cognitive assessments define trust for tive and cognitive behaviors and is not necessarily unconditional.

H. Akrout, M.F. Diallo Industrial Marketing Management 66 (2017) 159–171

During the maintenance stage, the individual is the focus, and experience with the trustee (Sitkin & Pablo, 1992). The potential de-
parties intensify ties that encourage affective trust. Shared values play a terrents associated with calculative trust also might make customers
critical role in the development of affective trust. Morgan and Hunt more cautious about committing (Rousseau, Sitkin, Burt, & Camerer,
(1994, p. 25) regard them as “the extent to which the partners have 1998). Therefore, in earlier stages, the exchange might be ended by any
common beliefs about the importance, the veracity or adequacy of adverse event, and the customer likely is not ready to invest or ex-
certain behaviors, goals and procedures.” The perception of shared change confidential information. Thus, we predict:
values indicates membership in the same clan or reference group, so the
H7. Calculative trust has no effect on (a) relationship investments or (b)
partners, in transactions, can substitute for each other. Shared values
confidential communication in B2B relationships.
reduce the differences between partners and stimulate their “chemistry”
(Lewicki & Bunker, 1995). Despite a general consensus that shared va- To a lesser extent but similarly, cognitive trust does not involve
lues are determinants of trust, most researchers refer only to ethical exchanges of resources such as caring, socio-emotional support, or
values to explain trust. Such an approach is understandable, because concrete resources. Benevolence is part of cognitive trust, but a seller's
boundary spanners cannot easily assess the similarity of values between intention to respect the interests of the buyer does not necessarily mean
organizations, beyond compliance with legislation. However, shared that it feels affection or shows any lasting emotional attachment.
values between seller and buyer might be informative (Brashear, Boles, Rather, this intention arise from an enlightened approach in which the
Bellenger, & Brooks, 2003; Nicholson et al., 2001). In the maintenance seller imposes restrictions on itself and is careful to exhibit a sufficient
stage, behavioral adjustments often are rooted in cognitive assessments, degree of mutual concern to sustain the relationship over time and
leading to the growth of trust and informal psychological contracts, continue to benefit from the advantages of the cooperation (Akrout
supported by reciprocal cogitations and emotional attachments that et al., 2016). The buyer will accept more personal vulnerability only if
gradually displace formal contracts (Harmeling et al., 2015; the seller forms some affective link, at which point the possibility of
Wathne & Heide, 2000). Thus, in the maintenance stage: being “held up” diminishes to nearly zero (Mayer et al., 1995; Rousseau
et al., 1998). Accordingly,
H4. Shared values have a positive effect on affective trust in B2B
relationships. H8. Cognitive trust has no direct effect on (a) relationship investments
and (b) confidential communication in B2B relationships
H5. Cognitive trust has a positive effect on affective trust in B2B
2.4. Control variables

2.3.4. Behavioral trust Behavioral trust (i.e., relationship investments and confidential
Behavioral trust can be defined as actions stemming from the af- communication) also might reflect characteristics of the buyer and the
fective or cognitive components of trust (Johnson & Grayson, 2005; relationship. Therefore, this study includes several control variables:
Lewis & Weigert, 1985). As Mayer et al. (1995, p. 724) explain, “Trust is the firm's industrial sector and size, the hierarchical position of the
the willingness to assume risk; behavioral trust is the assuming of risk.” buyer firm's representative, and relationship duration.
Several scholars use variables such as relationship investments, con-
fidential communication, and reduced opportunism as integral to be- 2.4.1. Firm's sector of activity
havioral trust (Currall & Judge, 1995; Smith & Barclay, 1997), with Despite a general recognition that trust is prominent in any rela-
significant effects on its consequences, such that behavioral trust ap- tional exchange (Morgan & Hunt, 1994), few studies actively demon-
pears as an indicator of taking the risk of trusting someone, and it re- strate whether findings from goods sectors generalize to service con-
sults from the attitude of the “trustor.” These behaviors then would be a texts and vice versa. Unlike the tangible cues that goods offer about
reflection of a trustor's attitudes and cognitions regarding a trustee, not their intrinsic quality, a service context creates greater need for quality
an element intrinsic to trust. Trust also increases a partner's willingness reassurance, because the cues that signal whether the service will fit
to take risks (Morgan & Hunt, 1994), and from this perspective their needs are lacking (Zeithaml, Parasuraman, & Berry, 1985). Ac-
(Nielson, 1998; Palmatier et al., 2006), investments in the relationship cordingly, in a service context, trust development depends even more
are likely a consequence of trust. Such investments might be material on social cues (Moorman et al., 1993). The seller functions almost like
(financial, physical, or human resources; Williamson, 1985) or non- an advisor. This reasoning suggests that in the maintenance stage, the
material (e.g., devoting time and attention to the relationship; buyer may be more open in its communication and make more re-
Smith & Barclay, 1997). Furthermore, enhanced interpersonal trust lationship investments.
encourages customers to share helpful information (Ashnai, Henneberg,
Naudé, & Francescucci, 2016; Cannon & Homburg, 2001), suggesting 2.4.2. Firm size
that the use of confidential communication constitutes a demonstration A large buying firm might worry that the supplier will exploit sen-
of behavioral trust (Currall & Judge, 1995). To be willing to accept the sitive information and jeopardize its performance (e.g., leak con-
vulnerability and risk of complete disclosure, exchange partners must fidential information to competitors). The buyer thus might be more
have a sense of security that their confidences will not be broken and reluctant to share confidential information or invest in the relationship.
that the partner can be relied on to be discrete and not use the in- Conversely, small firms, using their advantages (i.e., external relations),
formation for other purposes (Smith & Barclay, 1997). In the main- might be more willing to take risks with their supplier. Affective trust
tenance stage, confidential communication and relationship invest- induces a sense of security and attachment, which should impede the
ments should be two key dimensions of behavioral trust, such that we negative effects of power asymmetry. According to Geyskens et al.'s
hypothesize: (1998, p. 242) assertion that “Relationships are not prisoners of power
structure, but whether trust develops depends on how parties feel and
H6. Affective trust exerts a positive influence on (a) relationship
behave and on the outcomes developed,” we might expect that, in the
investments and (b) confidential communication in B2B relationships.
maintenance stage, smaller firms are more willing to invest in the re-
However, trust will not lead to risk taking in all situations; the lationship and share confidential information.
amount of trust is crucial and affects how much risk a party will agree
to take (Mayer et al., 1995). Perhaps calculative and cognitive trust in 2.4.3. Buyer's position
the exploration and expansion stages do not allow sufficient familiarity The position of the buyer in the hierarchy of the firm's purchasing
to achieve behavioral trust, because familiarity stems from increased department or buying center (e.g., director versus purchasing manager)

H. Akrout, M.F. Diallo Industrial Marketing Management 66 (2017) 159–171

Fig. 1. Conceptual model.

Controls: firm
sector, firm size,
position occupied,
Exploration Expansion Maintenance and relationship
stage stage stage duration

– Conflict resolution
Reputation Shared
– Communication
– Sympathy Behavioral
H1+ H2a/b/c+ H4+
H6a+ investments
Calculative H3+ Cognitive H5+ Affective
trust trust trust
H6b+ Confidential
H8a/b+ communication


might influence the impact of affective trust on behavioral trust. 3.1. Data collection
Perrone, Zaheer, and McEvily (2003) emphasize that roles influence the
degree of trust placed in the agents performing those roles. In the Business-to-business transactions constitute a substantial portion of
maintenance stage, a buyer with greater latitude for managing inter- the economic activity of developed countries (Lilien, 2016); we con-
organizational relationships (e.g., director) might be able to cultivate ducted this study in France. Prior to the formal data collection, we
more trust with the seller. When they are freed from the constraint of conducted qualitative research (in-depth interviews with purchasing
referring to hierarchical superiors, buyers should have greater au- managers involved in the buying process: 12 in the exploration stage,
tonomy to invest in the relationship and share more sensitive in- 13 in the expansion stage, and 13 in the maintenance stage) to identify
formation. critical elements related to trust in B2B relationships. The results con-
firmed the importance of the three forms of trust that have been the-
oretically identified in prior literature, namely, calculative (exploration
2.4.4. Relationship duration
stage), cognitive (expansion stage), and affective (maintenance stage).
Across previous research, the effect of relationship duration on trust
These results also indicated that different factors affect the components
varies significantly, from positive (e.g., Anderson & Weitz, 1989; Brashear
of trust (e.g., reputation, conflict resolution, shared values, sympathy),
et al., 2003) to neutral (Doney & Cannon, 1997; Gulati, 1995) to negative
suggesting the need to understand the consequences of trust in terms of
(Grayson & Ambler, 1999; Gulati & Nickerson, 2008). Although relationship
companies' confidential communication and relationship investment.
duration is not necessarily correlated with relationship stage (Verhoef,
Following the qualitative study, we undertook four quantitative surveys.
Franses, & Hoekstra, 2002), some studies investigating the effects of re-
In support of our effort to understand each form of trust individually, we
lationship length have relied on Dwyer et al.'s (1987) theory. Social psy-
first focused on each of the three stages, using three different surveys. A
chology theory (Swann & Gill, 1997) also indicates that relationship length
fourth survey then provided the data to test the overall model, including the
and relationship investments both are associated with trust. For the re-
interdependences among the three components of trust and their con-
lationship dyad, duration might magnify feelings of security and encourage
sequences for B2B relationships. Specifically, in Survey 1, we collected data
openness or attachment, which can promote behavioral trust.
from respondents about a relationship in the exploration stage, with re-
Fig. 1 presents the conceptual model, which summarizes the re-
putation and calculative trust measures. In Survey 2, we collected data
search hypotheses.
about relationships in the expansion stage, using measures of conflict re-
solution, communication, sympathy, and cognitive trust. Survey 3 focused
3. Research methodology on relationships in the maintenance stage and measured shared values and
affective trust. Finally, in Survey 4, we collected data about relationships in
This research is based on multiple surveys. We first focused on each all three stages together; only respondents involved simultaneously in re-
stage separately, then assessed the three stages together, to understand lationships in all three stages were qualified to participate.1To link the
the relationships investigated. As noted previously, the first and last of different stages and trust forms, Survey 4 included calculative trust, cog-
the five relationship stages do not feature any exchange between nitive trust, and affective trust, as well as their behavioral consequences
partners, so we focused only on the exploration, expansion, and (confidential communication and relationship investments).
maintenance stages of the relationship process. For this research, we For each survey, the data were collected using the Sphinx online system
adopted the methodology recommended by Anderson (1995) and ap- and Toluna Quick Survey. For the first three surveys, we targeted re-
plied by Dowell et al. (2015); we also relied on the analytical lifecycle spondents from the CDAF network (French Company of Directors and
framework proposed by Dwyer et al. (1987), which focuses specifically Purchasing Managers). For Survey 4, we used the Kompass database and
on relationships between buyers and sellers and also incorporates past, sent questionnaires to companies in it. The online platform ensured anon-
present, and future perspectives. Despite some criticism of Dwyer et al.'s ymity and allowed us to collect data without raising confidentiality con-
(1987) lifecycle stages, Jap and Anderson (2007) show empirically that cerns, which are very salient in B2B relationships. The link to the
77% of the dyads in their sample follow this common path. For the
current study, we provided a brief description of each relationship stage
to respondents, at the top of the questionnaire, then asked them to 1
We confirmed their ability to answer questions about all three stages using a
choose the stage that best characterized their relationship with a cur- screening question. The buyers being able to respond retrospectively about the three stage
rent supplier (Jap & Ganesan, 2000), similar to prior empirical studies with a same partner are also included. Some companies might be present in both the
(Claycomb & Frankwick, 2010; Eggert, Ulaga, & Schultz, 2006). CDAF network and the Kompass databasis.

H. Akrout, M.F. Diallo Industrial Marketing Management 66 (2017) 159–171

questionnaire was sent, via email, to firm members and managers involved for using it. In line with Henseler et al. (2014), we consider PLS ap-
in purchasing, between December 2012 and March 2013 (Surveys 1–3) and propriate for this research for three main reasons. First, compared with
then April–July 2015 (Survey 4). The instructions asked respondents to fill covariance-based structural equation modeling (SEM), PLS is preferable
in the questionnaire themselves and forward it to their colleagues, reflecting for research that is primarily concerned with predicting the dependent
a convenience sampling approach. The three first surveys included a variable (Reinartz, Haenlein, & Henseler, 2009) and extending existing
screening question, so that we target only those team members and man- structural theories (Hair, Ringle, & Sarstedt, 2011), such as our attempt
agers involved in a relationship in a specific stage. In Survey 4, we included to analyze the direct dependences among calculative, cognitive, and
respondents who had simultaneous relationships with different partners affective trust; their drivers; and their consequences in B2B relation-
that represented all three stages. Furthermore, to mitigate the threat of ships. Second, some of the subsample sizes are smaller than re-
common method bias, the trust variables in Survey 4 appeared in random commended for traditional SEM (< 200), in which case PLS
order, and respondents were not required to give their names or the names provides more accurate and realistic inferences (Gefen, Rigdon, &
of their suppliers (Parayitam & Dooley, 2009). Straub, 2011; Marcoulides, Chin, & Saunders, 2010). Particularly when
We collected 616 completed questionnaires: 140 for Survey 1 (ex- the numbers of constructs, indicators, and relationships are high and
ploration stage), 144 for Survey 2 (expansion stage), 152 for Survey 3 the sample size is low, PLS-SEM produces fewer biases than covariance-
(maintenance stage), and 188 for Survey 4 (overall model). We assessed based SEM (Hair, Hult, Ringle, & Sarstedt, 2014). Third, our data were
nonresponse bias by checking for within-study variation (Groves, 2006), not strongly multi-normal (Mardia test was not satisfactory), so PLS is
between responses from those who replied within two weeks (early re- more appropriate than covariance-based SEM, because it does not make
spondents) and those who replied later (late respondents). Only one con- distributional assumptions.
struct (conflict resolution, Survey 2) among the 19 measures indicated a
potential for nonresponse bias (p < 0.01), suggesting that nonresponse 4. Analysis and results
bias is not a serious concern. In the absence of any set quotas for B2B buyers
in France, to check the sample's diversification, we assessed the respondents' 4.1. Measurement scales' psychometric properties
diversity according to the control variables (i.e., firm's industrial sector,
relationship duration, position occupied, and firm size; Eggert et al., 2006). We assessed the outer measurement models and the inner structural
The distribution of respondents across categories showed sufficient diversity model simultaneously, using SmartPLS 3.0 (Ringle, Wende, & Becker,
in terms of sectors (goods 53%, services 47%), size (small/medium 54%, big 2015). For each survey sample (N1 = 140, N2 = 144, N3 = 152,
43%, missing 3%), positions (director 35%, buyer 65%), and relationship N4 = 180), we used four criteria to assess the convergent validity and
duration (8 years on average). internal consistency of the constructs: item loading, communality (R2),
reliability indicators (ρ and α), and the construct's average variance
3.2. Measurement extracted (AVE). Appendix 2 presents detailed information about the
means, standard deviations, and correlation matrices.
We developed the survey instrument on the basis of a comprehensive As we summarize in Table 1, all the item loadings between an in-
review of relevant literature, using multi-item scales to measure all the focal dicator and its posited underlying construct factor were > 0.7. The
constructs. Respondents indicated their agreement with a series of questions reliability indicators exceeded the threshold of 0.7, and the AVE
on a seven-point Likert scale, anchored by “strongly disagree” (1) and was > 0.5, in support of convergent validity (Fornell & Larcker, 1981).
“strongly agree” (7). The reputation of the selling firm was measured by The square root of each AVE also was greater than the correlations
three items adapted from Anderson and Weitz (1992), related to the sellers' between constructs (Appendix 2), in support of discriminant validity
fairness, being correct, and not having a bad reputation. (Fornell & Larcker, 1981); further support for discriminant validity at
We measured conflict resolution using three items from Frazier and the indicator level came from the recognition that the loading of each
Rody (1991). Communication is operationalized with three items from indicator was greater than all its cross-loadings (Chin, 1998). We also
Smith and Barclay (1997). For sympathy, we used three items from Swan found evidence of discriminant validity using a multi-trait, multi-
and Nolan (1985) and Swan et al. (1988). To operationalize shared values, method matrix (Henseler, Ringle, & Sarstedt, 2015). The variance in-
we relied on three items from Brashear et al. (2003). Calculative trust re- flation factors were below 2, implying that collinearity was not a con-
flected three items from Shou, Guo, Zhang, and Su (2011). For cognitive cern (Hair et al., 2014). Finally, to understand how the different forms
trust, we used three well-known dimensions: benevolence (three items from of trust relate, we needed to test a higher-order conceptualization for
Kumar, Scheer, & Steenkamp, 1995), honesty (three items from Kumar cognitive and affective trust. For cognitive trust, we gathered three
et al., 1995), and competence (three items from Smith & Barclay, 1997). well-established dimensions (Kumar et al., 1995; Smith & Barclay,
Affective trust is operationalized by two dimensions (affective attachment 1997) into a higher-order construct; for affective trust, we used the
and sense of security), each measured with three items from Akrout et al. same higher-order conceptualization as Akrout et al. (2016). There are
(2016). To operationalize behavioral trust in B2B relationships, we used no repeated measures; all the constructs are reflective, in line with prior
relationship investments (three items from Smith & Barclay, 1997) and studies.
confidential communication (three items from Smith & Barclay, 1997). Because we gathered survey responses from single key respondents,
Appendix 1 contains the measurement items and their sources. we needed to check for common method bias (Podsakoff, MacKenzie,
Lee, & Podsakoff, 2003). Post hoc tests showed no evidence that a single
3.3. Data analysis approach factor accounted for all or most of the covariance among the variables.
We also used the marker variable technique (Malhotra, Kim, & Patil,
The data analysis was based on partial least squares (PLS) path 2006). Surveys 1 and 3 each contained only one correlation though, so
modeling. In light of the controversy surrounding the value of PLS as a we could not check for common method variance with a marker vari-
quantitative research method (Rigdon, 2016),2 we clarify our rationale able in these cases and relied solely on the single factor method. In
Survey 2, we used the correlation between conflict resolution and
sympathy (smallest r = 0.32); for Survey 4, we used the correlation
Rigdon (2016, p. 604): “It should be clear to European management researchers that between calculative trust and relationship investment (smallest
PLS path modeling is not a panacea for flaws in research design or execution. It does not
r = 0.016). The differences between the original and corrected corre-
multiply a small sample size into a large one. It does not transform a poorly conceived
approach into a piercing, insightful analysis. At the same time, PLS path modeling is not a
lations were small and not significant (Δ r < 0.05), so common method
flawed analytical method. It may be misunderstood, but probably is no more so than the bias does not appear to influence the parameter estimates. In line with
factor-based approach to SEM, or any other sophisticated data analysis technique”. Chang, Chung, and Moon (2013) and Schilke and Lumineau (2016), we

H. Akrout, M.F. Diallo Industrial Marketing Management 66 (2017) 159–171

Table 1
Measurement scale properties.

Construct Items Standardized coefficient Bootstrap t values R2 values Reliability Convergent validity

1. Reputation (N1 = 140) Repu1 λ = 0.93 5.94 R2 = 0.64 ρ = 0.77 AVE = 0.64
Repu2 λ = 0.65 2.80
2. Conflict resolution (N2 = 144) Confres1 λ = 0.74 7.37 R2 = 0.57 ρ = 0.80 AVE = 0.57
Confres2 λ = 0.71 8.06
Confres3 λ = 0.81 14.38
3. Communication (N2 = 144) Com1 λ = 0.78 16.00 R2 = 0.67 ρ = 0.84 AVE = 0.73
Com3 λ = 0.82 18.04
4. Sympathy (N2 = 144) Symp1 λ = 0.89 31.11 R2 = 0.64 ρ = 0.84 AVE = 0.64
Symp2 λ = 0.58 5.23
Symp3 λ = 0.99 39.84
5. Shared values (N3 = 152) Sval1 λ = 0.92 3.75 R2 = 0.62 ρ = 0.76 AVE = 0.62
Sval2 λ = 0.64 2.28
6. Calculative trust (N4 = 180) Caltr1 λ = 0.80 10.12 2
R = 0.63 ρ = 0.83 AVE = 0.63
Caltr2 λ = 0.86 19.87
Caltr3 λ = 0.71 7.10
7. Cognitive trust (N4 = 180)
7.1. Benevolence Ben1 λ = 0.86 32.28 R2 = 0.78 ρ = 0.88 AVE = 0.90
Ben2 λ = 0.82 22.75
Ben3 λ = 0.84 35.39
7.2. Honesty Hon1 λ = 0.85 35.40 R2 = 0.65 ρ = 0.85 AVE = 0.73
Hon3 λ = 0.86 47.36
7.3. Competence Comp1 λ = 0.86 51.19 R2 = 0.63 ρ = 0.87 AVE = 0.70
Comp2 λ = 0.81 19.51
Comp3 λ = 0.85 24.16
8. Affective trust (N4 = 180)
8.1. Security Secu1 λ = 0.78 21.78 R2 = 0.75 ρ = 0.87 AVE = 0.70
Secu2 λ = 0.89 50.34
Secu3 λ = 0.83 36.39
8.2. Attachment Atta1 λ = 0.91 75.27 R2 = 0.75 ρ = 0.88 AVE = 0.71
Atta2 λ = 0.91 51.23
Atta3 λ = 0.86 29.38
9. Investment in the relationship (N4 = 180) Invest1 λ = 0.87 22.97 R2 = 0.68 ρ = 0.86 AVE = 0.68
Invest2 λ = 0.88 27.68
Invest3 λ = 0.70 11.17
10. Confidential communication (N4 = 180) Confcom1 λ = 0.83 15.07 R2 = 0.69 ρ = 0.87 AVE = 0.69
Confcom2 λ = 0.84 19.52
Confcom3 λ = 0.81 14.48
Assessment of higher-order constructs
Cognitive trust (N4 = 180) Benev λ = 0.88 47.69 R2 = 0.10 ρ = 0.88 AVE = 0.50
Honest λ = 0.88 26.83
Compet λ = 0.79 20.52
Affective trust (N4 = 180) Attach λ = 0.86 41.00 R2 = 0.27 ρ = 0.88 AVE = 0.56
Secu λ = 0.87 54.10

Notes: The outer models of the drivers of trust forms are estimated in Survey 1 (reputation), Survey 2 (conflict resolution, communication, sympathy), and Survey 3 (shared values). Trust
components (calculative, cognitive, and affective) and their consequences (investment in the relationship and confidential communication) are assessed in Survey 4.

also assessed endogeneity issues using propensity-score matching in 4.2. Structural model, direct and indirect effects
Stata 14. First, as we have two main dependent variables in the model
we need to identify a proxy of a treatment variable for each. Because With the structural model, we tested the direct effects hypotheses by
investment in the relationship and confidential communication are examining the path coefficients (γ) and their significance levels in the
significantly correlated (r = 0.44, p < 0.01), we used them to serve as final sample (N = 180). A bootstrap estimation verified the statistical
a treatment of each other. Second, because the treatment variables significance of each path coefficient. The variance explained (R2) in the
should be categorical, we used the median value to create two cate- endogenous latent variables and p-values of the regression coefficients
gories: low versus high level. Third, we ran propensity-score matching (t-test) indicated the explanatory power of the model. The R2 values of
test (teffects psmatch function in Stata). Results provide evidence of the main dependent variables were 0.28 for affective trust, 0.22 for
absence of endogeneity issues. In both cases, the treatment effect is relationship investments, and 0.10 for confidential communication,
significant: ATE (Confidential communication) (1 vs. 0) = 0.523, suggesting acceptable model fit (Aurier & N'Goala, 2010; Chin, 1998;
z = 3.26, p = 0.001; ATE Investment in the relationship (1 vs. 0) Hair et al., 2014). The goodness of fit (GoF) values were substantial and
= 1.390, z = 6, p = 0.000. also suggested good model fit (Wetzels, Odekerken-Schroder, & van
In SmartPLS 3, we also used the three steps suggested by Henseler, Oppen, 2009),3 as follows: Survey 1 exploration stage 0.27; Survey 2
Ringle, and Sarstedt (2016) to assess measurement invariance. The expansion stage 0.63; Survey 3 maintenance stage 0.54; and Survey 4
configural invariance assessment requires inspection of the model set- overall model 0.55. The relative relevance values (Q2) ranged from low
up; we found similar coefficients in the two groups (e.g., R2 values, (0.05 for cognitive trust) to satisfactory (0.59 for attachment).
AVE). We also assessed compositional invariance on the basis of the We inspected indirect effects as well, through the forms of trust (i.e.,
permutation-based confidence intervals. No differences arose between cognitive and affective routes), by computing the product of the direct
the group coefficients (p-values > 0.05). Finally, in an analysis of the
equality of the mean values and variances based on permutation-based
confidence intervals, we identified no differences between the two 3
Wetzels et al. (2009) propose the following GoF thresholds: small = 0.1,
groups (p-values > 0.05). medium = 0.25, and large = 0.36.

H. Akrout, M.F. Diallo Industrial Marketing Management 66 (2017) 159–171

Table 2
Hypothesis testing results.

Hypotheses Results

Standardized coefficients Bootstrap t-values Survey Status

Drivers of trust components

H1+: Reputation → calculative trust 0.34⁎⁎ 3.43 1 Confirmed
H2a+: Conflict resolution → cognitive trust 0.22⁎⁎ 3.06 2 Confirmed
H2b+: Communication → cognitive trust 0.33⁎⁎ 4.50 2 Confirmed
H2c+: Sympathy → cognitive trust 0.42⁎⁎ 6.75 2 Confirmed
H3+: Shared values → affective trust 0.14 ns. 1.61 3 Not confirmed

Relationships between trust components

H4+: Calculative trust → cognitive trust 0.33⁎⁎ 4.76 4 Confirmed
H5+: Cognitive trust → affective trust 0.50⁎⁎ 8.98 4 Confirmed

Consequences of trust
H6a+: Calculative trust → investment in the relationship − 0.00 ns 0.10 4 Confirmed
H6b+: Calculative trust → confidential communication − 0.05 ns 0.57 4 Confirmed
H7a+: Cognitive trust → investment in the relationship 0.16 ns 1.54 4 Confirmed
H7b+: Cognitive trust → confidential communication 0.13 ns 1.35 4 Confirmed
H8a+: Affective trust → investment in the relationship 0.37⁎⁎ 4.53 4 Confirmed
H8b+: Affective trust → confidential communication 0.26⁎⁎ 2.84 4 Confirmed

ns = not significant.
p < 0.01.

effects using bootstrapping (Cheung & Lau, 2008; Zhao, Lynch, & Chen, effects on these variables. These results emphasize the transformative
2010). Because SmartPLS does not reveal the significance of specific in- nature of trust: Depending on the stage and form of trust considered,
direct effects with bootstrap intervals, we used a Monte Carlo method to the consequences for behavioral trust vary.
assess the mediation for such effects (MacKinnon, Lockwood, & Williams,
2004).4 4.3. Robustness checks and controls
The results in Table 2 show that in the exploration stage, reputation
has a positive effect on calculative trust (γ = 0.34, p < 0.01, To assess the robustness of the results and explicate these relationships,
d = 0.34),5 in support of H1. In the expansion stage, conflict resolution we included contextual and individual characteristics (firm sector, firm size,
(γ = 0.22, p < 0.01, d = 0.26), communication (γ = 0.33, p < 0.01, duration of the relationship, and position occupied) as control variables,
d = 0.20), and sympathy (γ = 0.42, p < 0.01, d = 0.50) all positively pertaining to the two components of behavioral trust (confidential com-
affect cognitive trust, in line with H2a–c. However, shared values do munication and relationship investments). Furthermore, we controlled for
not significantly affect affective trust (p > 0.05), so we must reject H3 other endogenous variables (cognitive and affective trust). Adding these
in the maintenance stage. variables as covariates in the model did not change the main results or
The results of the model that includes the consequences of the trust improve its explanatory power (nearly identical R2 values of 0.28 for af-
components (Survey 4) highlight several further insights. Calculative fective trust, 0.24 for relationship investments, and 0.14 for confidential
trust significantly influences cognitive trust (γ = 0.33, p < 0.01, communication).
d = 0.41), which drives affective trust positively and strongly
(γ = 0.50, p < 0.01, d = 0.69). We also uncover a significant media-
5. Conclusion and discussion
tion effect of trust in the relationship between calculative and affective
trust (γ = 0.16 [0.33 × 0.50], p < 0.01, d = 0.28), suggesting sig-
This study addresses the fundamental transformational nature of
nificant interdependences between trust components in B2B relation-
trust, to unravel its drivers and consequences over time, as well as the
ships. Thus, our results confirm H4 and H5. Furthermore, we uncover
links among various forms of trust. Despite the importance of re-
different effects of trust components on trustworthy behavior, in line
lationship evolution for predicting exchange performance (Palmatier,
with our expectations. Calculative trust has no direct or indirect effect
Houston, Dant, & Grewal, 2013), trust measures often rely on static
on relationship investments or confidential communication (p > 0.05
approaches (Seppänen et al., 2007). A process perspective instead
in all cases). Cognitive trust has no direct effect on these constructs
considers how trust transforms over the duration of the relationship
either, yet it has significant indirect effects on both relationship in-
(Möllering, 2006). Jap and Anderson (2007) call for a relationship
vestments (γ = 0.18 [0.50 × 0.37], p < 0.01, d = 0.24) and con-
development theory that integrates relationship elements, including
fidential communication (γ = 0.13 [0.50 × 0.26], p < 0.01,
trust; recent research also cites the need for a categorization of the
d = 0.15), through affective trust. Finally, affective trust has a sig-
evolution of interfirm relationships, which should include the role of
nificant positive effect on relationship investments (γ = 0.37,
trust in B2B relationships (Lilien, 2016). Our study seeks to address
p < 0.01, d = 0.35) and confidential communication (γ = 0.26,
these calls.
p < 0.01, d = 0.22), in support of H6–H8. Overall, affective trust in-
fluences the behavioral trust variables directly, whereas cognitive trust
affects them indirectly. Calculative trust has no (direct or indirect) 5.1. Theoretical and methodological implications

In line with relationship lifecycle stages (Dwyer et al., 1987), our

Parametric bootstrapping can be performed with an online tool (http://www. conceptualization reflects the transformation of trust and sheds light on
quantpsy.org/medmc/medmc.htm). this multilayered concept. First, we confirm that trust is stage depen-
Here, d refers to the effect size estimation, for which we use Cohen's standards of 0.1
dent; its forms, which are determined by different drivers, change over
for small, 0.3 for medium, and 0.5 for large. For the indirect effects, we use a joint test of
significance: We computed the power of the direct paths (a and b), then multiplied their
the relationship stages. Drawn from extensive trust literature, the
power to obtain the indirect effect. In this case, a small effect size is 0.01, medium is.09, multiform conceptualization of trust and the multistage approach fol-
and large is 0.25 (see http://davidakenny.net/cm/mediate.htm). lowed in this research provide a more comprehensive view of process-

H. Akrout, M.F. Diallo Industrial Marketing Management 66 (2017) 159–171

based trust, which comprises calculative, cognitive, and affective trust associations across variables and buyers' considerations of trust change
as integral forms. Our stage-specific study of trust's forms in B2B re- as trust develops, suggesting its stage-dependent nature. Not only do
lationships revealed, as we predicted, a positive effect of reputation on the early-stage drivers differ substantially from those in advanced
calculative trust in the exploration stage, and a positive effects of stages, but the forms of trust in the exploration or expansion stages have
conflict resolution, communication, and sympathy on cognitive trust in no impact on behavioral trust. The mediation of affective trust thus
the expansion stage. However, shared values do not significantly drive appears essential. In this sense, our model sheds light on the “mutation”
affective trust in the maintenance stage, in contrast with Jones and of trust forms and drivers in each stage and in the overall relationship.
George's (1998) argument. Perhaps even affective trust is not un- The process of trust is integral to its forms.
conditional, and research needs to determine more clearly which values
are most important for buyers and sellers to share. More importantly, 5.2. Managerial implications
our overall study offers strong empirical support of the interdependence
of the three forms of trust, directly and indirectly. Relationship transformations are costly and require accurate re-
Second, our approach to trust in B2B settings addresses the long- lationship marketing management (Harmeling et al., 2015). Although
standing argument in B2B marketing literature, and trust research more many factors can influence trust, our results suggest that differentiated
broadly, about whether trust can be based on a calculation. As we de- determinants influence trust forms, depending on whether the re-
monstrate empirically, trust evolution is contingent on both calculus lationship is at its beginning or at an advanced stage. Because trust
and psycho-sociological features (Dowell et al., 2015). We account for appears to be a critical resource that is both fragile and mutating,
both calculative trust and variables such as reputation to examine the suppliers must recognize the different catalysts of its emergence, de-
various conditions that give rise to lasting relationships as cognitive and velopment, and maintenance. They need to develop a wide variety of
subsequently affective trust arise and strengthen. This form of trust is strategic tools to regulate the relationship process with their customers.
crucial for the development of any long-term relationship (Valtakoski, Noting the significant transaction costs required to acquire new custo-
2015) because untrustworthy partners are deselected over time. mers, managers should create strong B2B brands that can strengthen
Third, with a process perspective on trust, our study of the condi- external cues of their good reputation (Valtakoski, 2015). Suppliers also
tions of its emergence and implications suggest a refinement to TCE can initiate communication processes to address the credible concerns
theory. According to the latter, rational calculation substitutes for trust of potential customers; they often care particularly about honesty, open
in all circumstances, however as investigated in this study, calculative communication, and expertise (McKinsey, 2013).
trust form during the exploration stage implies that contractual clauses Because affective trust is an important mediator of behavioral trust,
are not the only reason parties renounce opportunistic behaviors. suppliers must understand how the calculative trust of the buyer can be
Forming trusting relationships with other firms reduces the cost of transformed gradually to more stable and strong forms. Strong re-
detection of opportunism (i.e., (un)trusted partners are (de)selected lationships can mitigate the negative effects of product disconfirma-
over time), decreases the likelihood of cheating (Granovetter, 2002) tions (e.g., service failures) (Harmeling et al., 2015), so poor perfor-
and contributes to reduce transaction costs (Lindgreen, 2003; Sako, mance can be “healed” more easily if the actors are already in an
1992). Furthermore, for the most part, TCE-based approaches ignore affective, trusting relationship. Our study suggests that the fundamental
contract interpretations (particularly during early relationships; transformations of trust require the fulfillment of three types of ex-
Williamson, 1996). Yet it is impossible to write comprehensive con- pectations: (1) relational (sympathy, communication, and conflict re-
tracts (Rindfleisch & Heide, 1997) by anticipating all uncertainties solution), (2) technical (competence), and (3) moral (honesty and
(Poppo & Zenger, 2002). In this context, calculative trust during the benevolence). According to the temporal context, managers have the
exploration stage can complement soft contractual safeguards and re- ability to decide whether to deploy more or less customer interaction
duce the need to use extensive formal controls. Grewal, Chakravarty, management, customer relationship upgrading, or customer win-back
and Saini (2010) find no effects of formal control on buyer–seller per- capabilities (Wang & Feng, 2012). A customer's decision to upgrade
formance, and Heide, Wathne, and Rokkan (2007) emphasize that, service contracts often is influenced by its perceptions of its relationship
given the costs associated with formal control, firms should proactively with the supplier (Bolton, Lemon, & Verhoef, 2008). Therefore, sup-
create contexts that support their governance arrangements. Trust, with pliers need to understand the nature and history of their customers'
its different forms, has the potential to optimize expenditures on control experiences with the firm over time.
and various transactions costs and ensure a better implementation of In more advanced stages, managers should take both the stage and
contractual terms, even at the beginning of an interfirm exchange. the duration of the relationship into account. These contextual factors
Therefore, within a temporal perspective, integrating relational ex- accelerate the development of behavioral trust, which substantiates the
change theory (RET) variables (e.g., calculative, cognitive and affective need for actions to cultivate trust. Active trust-building can be initiated
trust) into the TCE framework by relaxing some core assumptions such by interactive communication. Unlike tangible assets, trust grows with
as opportunistic behavior can enrich the theory. use and decays with disuse. Therefore, it must be cultivated. Because
Fourth, our framework in Fig. 1 extends transformational models people tend to recall their emotions (positive and negative) best, sellers
with a psychological approach (Lewicki & Bunker, 1995; Shapiro et al., should ensure that the history of their relationship with the customer is
1992). By providing information about the relational stages, we bring charged with positive emotions, such as by strengthening the relational
more accuracy about the evolution process of trust in B2B relationships. capabilities of salespeople who are in charge of the relationship port-
We demonstrate empirically that risk-taking behavior, as a manifesta- folio. A successful sales force demands training in personal selling and
tion of behavioral trust, is a function of affective trust in the seller. We relational competencies, combined with appropriate assignments to
also confirm that to promote relationship development, trust must match the different types of customers in different relationship stages.
transform and be manifested as trusting actions (Huang & Wilkinson, For example, technical skills are essential for dealing with new custo-
2013). Failing to account for affective processes limits understanding of mers, but the specific management of a key account in the expansion
the evolution of interpersonal trust. and maintenance stages must be entrusted to sellers with both technical
Fifth, by using stage-specific forms of trust, we take an incremental and interpersonal competencies.
step toward a better understanding of its transformation. Most trust
studies use cross-sectional research methods and a mono-con- 5.3. Limitations and further research
ceptualization (mainly cognitive), but according to Lewis and Weigert
(2012), the methods should fit the phenomenon, and trust appears to The results of our study should be interpreted in light of several
evolve. It does not simply strengthen over time; rather, the patterns of limitations that indicate avenues for further research. First, a data

H. Akrout, M.F. Diallo Industrial Marketing Management 66 (2017) 159–171

collection using paired buyer–seller dyads might have captured the form of trust (i.e., past behavioral trust) might be an antecedent of
respective views of the buyer and seller better and revealed potential current affective trust; future behavioral trust can be its outcome
discrepancies, especially if the evolution of trust depends on re- (Lewis & Weigert, 2012). In any model with a potential feedback loop,
ciprocity. For practical reasons, buyers do not readily disclose their longitudinal studies are suitable. A longitudinal research design thus
suppliers, which prevented us from gathering information from both might offer a compelling test of our model.
sides. Yet trust-building processes might not succeed if partners do not Fourth, we selected some specific antecedents of trust and con-
reciprocate each other's trust (Li, 2015). If the outcome of affective trust ceptualized them according to a dual specification of trust and re-
in the maintenance stage (i.e., behavioral trust) is considered an act of lationship stages. If we were to use other concepts, such as satisfaction,
reciprocity, then trust-building processes in the early stages also might we would need additional specifications. According to Geyskens and
require some form of reciprocity. Steenkamp (2000), comprehensive insights into the role of satisfaction
Second, the multisectoral nature of the sample can mask some in the development and maintenance of long-term relationships require
moderating effects related to the nature of the product or sector spe- differentiating between economic and social satisfaction. A similar re-
cificities. Each context is unique. Extensions of our model to other quirement might apply to commitment. The use of these constructs in
business and cultural contexts would help confirm the generalizability turn would benefit other research areas, such as investigations of the
of our findings. relationship quality meta-construct.
Third, our model does not incorporate a feedback loop. The conative

Appendix A

Appendix 1
Measurement items and scale sources.

Supplier reputation [Source: Anderson & Weitz, 1992]

Reput1. This supplier has the reputation of fairness with its customers.
Reput2. This supplier is known for technical and relational competence.
Reput3. (R) This supplier has a bad reputation in the marketplace.*
Conflict resolution [Source: Frazier & Rody, 1991]
Confres1. The discussions I have with this supplier's personnel on areas of disagreement are usually very productive.
Confres2. (R) I generally try to avoid discussing with this supplier's personnel any differences of opinion that I have with them.
Confres3. The discussions I have with this supplier's personnel on areas of disagreement increase the effectiveness and strength of our
Communication [Source: Cannon & Perreault, 1999; Morgan & Hunt, 1994]
Com1. We frequently discuss accounts and opportunities.
Com2. We tell each other things we would not want others to know.*
Com3. We provide each other with timely information.
Sympathy [Source: Swan et al., 1988]
Symp1. The seller is friendly.
Symp2. (R) The seller is not particularly pleasant.
Symp3. We were pleased to know this seller.
Shared values [Source: Brashear et al., 2003]
Sval1. This seller shares our values.
Sval2. This seller respects the confidentiality of the information we share.
Sval3. (R) This seller often behaves in a manner contrary to common rules.*
Calculative trust [Source: Shou et al., 2011]
Caltr1. The supplier realizes that not being opportunistic accords with their interest.
Caltr2. The supplier realizes that violating our trust will certainly be sanctioned.
Caltr3. We believe that the supplier is aware that opportunistic behavior will result in a high cost of defection.
Cognitive trust
Benevolence [Source: Kumar et al., 1995]
Ben1. When making important decisions, the seller is concerned about our welfare.
Ben2. When we share our problems with the seller, we know that it will respond with understanding.
Ben3. In the future, we can count on the seller to consider both our interests as its own.
Honesty [Source: Kumar et al., 1995]
Hon1. The seller usually keeps the promises that it makes to our firm.
Hon2. (R) It is necessary to be careful with this seller.*
Hon3. Our firm can count on the seller to be sincere.
Competence [Source: Smith & Barclay, 1997]
Comp1. The seller is capable and competent in its work.
Comp2. The seller is knowledgeable about our business.
Comp3. The seller is able to adapt to specific and unforeseen situations.
Affective trust [Source: Akrout et al., 2016]
Secu1. I am sure that it will always make me its best offer.
Secu2. I feel very at ease in my relationship with it.
Secu3. I have great respect for it and vice versa,

H. Akrout, M.F. Diallo Industrial Marketing Management 66 (2017) 159–171

Atta1. I have strong emotional links with him.
Atta2. If I could no longer work with him, I would feel that I have lost a personal relationship.
Atta3. We have both made considerable emotional investments (Christmas, get-well cards…, dinners/lunches…) in our professional relationship.
Behavioral trust
Investment in the relationship [Source: Smith & Barclay, 1997]
Invest1. We have invested the time and energy to develop our relationship.
Invest2. We have made efforts to further our relations.
Invest3. We have invested in employee training for this relationship.
Confidential communication [Source: Smith & Barclay, 1997]
Confcom1. We communicate to the seller information that we would not like to be known by others.
Confcom2. We exchange information with this seller concerning the exercise of our responsibilities (training, responsibilities, objectives, and
Confcom3. We share confidential information with this seller.
Notes: (R) = Reverse coded. * Items deleted after the purification process because of their low and non-significant loadings.

Appendix 2
Means, correlation matrices, and discriminant validity assessment (NTotal = 616).

Survey 1, Exploration stage (N = 140)

Means (SD) 1. 2.

1. Reputation (ρ = 0.77) 4.98 (1.02) √ AVE = 0.80

2. Calculative trust (ρ = 0.84) 5.00 (1.16) 0.30 AVE = 0.65

Survey 2, Expansion stage (N = 144)

Means (SD) 1. 2. 3. 4.

1. Conflict resolution (ρ = 0.80) 5.22 (0.82) √ AVE = 0.75

2. Communication (ρ = 0.84) 5.26 (1.04) 0.29 √ AVE = 0.85
3. Sympathy (ρ = 0.84) 5.28 (0.92) 0.42 0.32 √ AVE = 0.80
4. Cognitive trust (ρ = 0.85) 5.43 (0.69) 0.48 0.59 0.59 √ AVE = 0.81

Survey 3, Maintenance stage (N = 152)

Means (SD) 1. 2.

1. Shared values (ρ = 0.76) 4.89 (1.02) √AVE = 0.78

2. Affective trust (ρ = 0.84) 4.39 (1.02) 0.14 √ AVE = 0.83

Survey 4, Overall (N = 180)

Construct Means (SD) 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

1. Calculative trust (ρ = 0.83) 4.05 (1.06) √ AVE = 0.79

2. Cognitive trust (ρ = 0.88) 4.61 (0.71) 0.32 √ AVE = 0.84
3. Affective trust (ρ = 0.88) 4.00 (1.04) 0.27 0.46 √ AVE = 0.82
4. Investment in the relationship (ρ = 0.86) 4.98 (1.01) 0.016 0.34 0.44 √ AVE = 0.82
5. Confidential communication (ρ = 0.87) 4.30 (1.44) 0.07 0.22 0.29 0.44 √ AVE = 0.83
Notes: SD = standard deviation. For discriminant validity, the square root of the average variance extracted (AVE) values on the diagonal must be greater than the correlations between
constructs, as was the case for all of these constructs.

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