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

Suresh Cuganesan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-103
Number of pages26
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Accounting
  • Customer orientation
  • Customer relations
  • Customers


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