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Calculating customer intimacy: accounting numbers in a sales and marketing department


  • Suresh Cuganesan


Purpose - The purpose of this research is to examine the role of accounting numbers in one organisation's attempts to enact and calculate customer intimacy, given renewed interest in organisation-customer relationships. Design/methodology/approach - The paper utilises actor-network theory in conducting an ethnography at a wholesale financial services firm pursuing a strategy of customer intimacy. The main empirical site was the sales and marketing department, where actors were attempting to further their knowledge of customer needs in the present and anticipate them into the future. Findings - The paper finds heterogeneous enactments of “customer intimacy” through a “numeric calculation network” and a “sales calculation network”. The former sought to use accounting numbers to calculate how customer intimacy was enacted and impose upon a sales-force periphery a regime of performance measurement. The latter eventually destabilised the proposed performance measures by promoting their own basis for calculating customers. These were more diverse and “implicit”, comprising talk and communication through co-location and proximity with customers. Originality/value - The paper provides a number of insights into the role of accounting as a calculative practice. The observed emergence of novel means of producing accounting numbers outside the domain of the accounting function and within the sales and marketing department has important implications for the practice and study of accounting. In addition, potential limits to the use of accounting in enabling “action at a distance” are identified through the observed contest between “hard” accounting' numbers and softer modes of calculation.

Suggested Citation

  • Suresh Cuganesan, 2008. "Calculating customer intimacy: accounting numbers in a sales and marketing department," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 21(1), pages 78-103, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eme:aaajpp:v:21:y:2008:i:1:p:78-103

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Suresh Cuganesan, 2006. "The role of functional specialists in shaping controls within supply networks," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 19(4), pages 465-492, July.
    2. Mouritsen, Jan, 1997. "Marginalizing the customer: Customer orientation, quality and accounting performance," Scandinavian Journal of Management, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 5-18, March.
    3. Ezzamel, Mahmoud & Lilley, Simon & Willmott, Hugh, 2004. "Accounting representation and the road to commercial salvation," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 29(8), pages 783-813, November.
    4. Walsh, Eamonn J. & Stewart, Ross E., 1993. "Accounting and the construction of institutions: The case of a factory," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 18(7-8), pages 783-800.
    5. Ahrens, Thomas, 1997. "Talking Accounting: An Ethnography Of Management Knowledge In British And German Brewers," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 22(7), pages 617-637, October.
    6. Jeacle, Ingrid & Walsh, Eamonn J., 2002. "From moral evaluation to rationalization: accounting and the shifting technologies of credit," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 27(8), pages 737-761, November.
    7. Hopper, Trevor & Armstrong, Peter, 1991. "Cost accounting, controlling labour and the rise of conglomerates," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 16(5-6), pages 405-438.
    8. Ogden, S. G., 1997. "Accounting for organizational performance: The construction of the customer in the privatized water industry," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 22(6), pages 529-556, August.
    9. Chua, Wai Fong, 1995. "Experts, networks and inscriptions in the fabrication of accounting images: A story of the representation of three public hospitals," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 20(2-3), pages 111-145.
    10. Carmona, Salvador & Ezzamel, Mahmoud & Gutierrez, Fernando, 1997. "Control and cost accounting practices in the Spanish Royal Tobacco Factory," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 22(5), pages 411-446, July.
    11. Anthony Hopwood, 1992. "Accounting calculation and the shifting sphere of the economic," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 1(1), pages 125-143.
    12. Walsh, Eamonn J. & Jeacle, Ingrid, 2003. "The taming of the buyer: the retail inventory method and the early twentieth century department store," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 28(7-8), pages 773-791.
    13. Robson, Keith, 1992. "Accounting numbers as "inscription": Action at a distance and the development of accounting," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 17(7), pages 685-708, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Suresh Cuganesan & John C. Dumay, 2009. "Reflecting on the production of intellectual capital visualisations," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 22(8), pages 1161-1186, October.
    2. repec:eee:crpeac:v:21:y:2010:i:8:p:739-753 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Samantha Warren & Lee Parker, 2009. "Bean counters or bright young things?: Towards the visual study of identity construction among professional accountants," Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 6(4), pages 205-223, October.


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