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Understanding How Management Control Affects the Triangle Relationship between Management, Sales Agent and Client:
A Case Study from a Chinese Life Insurance Company

FU, YAOYAO (2015) Understanding How Management Control Affects the Triangle Relationship between Management, Sales Agent and Client:
A Case Study from a Chinese Life Insurance Company.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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There has been growing literature on management control in the context of front-line service work, including sales work. Given the nature of front-line work, service recipients – customers and clients – play an important role in management control and in the social relations in the workplace. Moreover, the triangle relationship has become a research focus for decades. However, most of the research has been done in western countries. In addition, little attention has been paid to sales work mixed with service elements. Furthermore, the complexity of the triangle relationship between three parties has not been sufficiently evaluated. This thesis investigates management control in a Chinese life insurance company and the effects of management on individual sales agents and the triangle relationship between management, sales agents and clients. In order to address the research target, this study employs a qualitative approach and chooses a single-case study research design. The qualitative data has been collected from a documentary analysis, observations and semi-structured interviews.

The empirical findings suggest that:
a. The management controls in the studied case can be categorised into two main types: formally coercive control that consists of output control, bureaucratic control, direct control and attendant control; and informally normative control that consists of concertive control in the sales teams and normative control in morning meetings.
b. The controls for contradictory logic that interact with one another to have an impact on individual sales agents and the triangle relationship.
c. Sales agents who have a greater family responsibility and the capability of meeting sales targets set by the company are more motivated by financial incentives, identified with organisational and occupational value and self-disciplined.
d. Sales agents who have a poor performance and lack the capability to improve their performance are more likely to resist management control.
e. The relationship between management and the sales agents is not always conflictual.
f. Co-worker assistance and informal coping are found in the relationships among sales agents, although their sales work is highly individualised and competitive.
g. The relationship between sales agents and clients is instrumental in its nature, but when there is an ongoing relationship and a high level of trust between sales agents and clients, this relationship appears to be less instrumental.
h. Improving the quality of service and enhancing the myth of customer sovereignty may sacrifice efficiency in the short term, but it can potentially increase sales efficiency in the long run.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:management control, insurance sales work, service triangle, sales teams
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Economics, Finance and Business, School of
Thesis Date:2015
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:11 Sep 2015 11:33

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