Incentive and Competition Effects of Supplier Awards
42 Pages Posted: 11 May 2017 Last revised: 10 Mar 2018
Date Written: March 1, 2018
Many firms recognize exceptional supplier performance by giving out a "Supplier of the Year" or "Outstanding Supplier" award. These awards are usually symbolic since they have no immediate monetary value for a supplier and no direct cost to a buyer. Giving these awards can be beneficial for a buyer: if suppliers care about being rewarded, symbolic awards can incentivize a supplier to exert higher effort. On the other hand, in a market with multiple buyers and suppliers, an award may have another effect, which we denote "competition effect". When good suppliers are scarce, a public award can intensify the competition to do business with a good supplier. We develop a theoretical model that captures a supplier's value for the award in a setting with two buyers and two suppliers. We show that the average provision of quality is higher when awards are available whether these are private (only observable to the recipient) or public (observable to everyone). In addition, public awards result in buyers paying a higher price to get a good supplier. We then test these results with a laboratory experiment. Our experimental results show that private symbolic awards have incentive effects and lead to higher provision of quality and higher buyer's profits. When the awards are public this profit premium disappears. This happens for two reasons, first because buyers have to pay higher prices to get the good suppliers, and second because making the award public crowds out the intrinsic value of the award for suppliers.
Keywords: collaboration in supply chains, behavioral operations, symbolic supplier awards
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