Transforming service research: Insights from a Special Session on Transformative Service Research (TSR)
Last month, I participated in a SERVSIG Special Session at the American Marketing Association (AMA) Winter Marketing Educators’ Conference in Orlando. The AMA is the leading marketing organisation worldwide with more than 40,000 members. SERVSIG stands for Services Special Interest Group. The AMA SIGs are communities of AMA members who are interested in sharing ideas, knowledge and experiences with others in the field.
The Special Session was organised by Dr Martin Mende from Florida State University and was called “Transformative Service Research – A Cutting Edge Area for Marketing Scholars”. Transformative Service Research (TSR) is defined as service research that strives to create uplifting improvements and changes in the well-being of individuals (consumers and employees), families, social networks, communities, cities, nations, collectives, and ecosystems (Anderson et al., 2011). As such, instead of focusing on profits, market share and consumer satisfaction, TSR is also interested in other (not necessarily conflicting) outcomes such as access, mitigating vulnerability, well-being, happiness, quality of life, equity, and decreasing disparity. TSR focuses on improving consumer and societal welfare through service and “builds on the notion of a transformative service economy that improves the relationships among social, economic, and environmental systems through respectful, collaborative, and sustainable interactions” (Rosenbaum et al., 2011, p.3).
The Special Session consisted of four presentations (information below is from the submitted abstracts):
Transformative Service Research: When “Uplifting Changes” Don’t Happen (Dr Laurel Anderson, Arizona State University)
Laurie’s ethnographic study of the health of consumers in a subsistence community revealed the reasons why service processes, providers, and systems do not always increase well-being. In her presentation, she explained three inter-related views of service that are conceptually foundational to TSR: systems, (e.g., employment, transportation, food channel, and health care systems), social structures (e.g., access, voice, vulnerability, marginalization and social justice), and cultural worlds (health care and the subsistence community), each of which highlight certain issues and approaches to well-being. Her presentation raised important questions and suggested to look beyond an individual responsibility for well-being.
Engaging Customers as Co-producers: A Pathway to Consumer Well-Being (Dr Maura Scott, Florida State University)
Maura showed how customers, especially those who are low in service literacy, respond to varying levels of coproduction workload. In particular, she presented the results of two studies (a field experiment in a hospital and an experiment on financial planning) that show that service literacy plays a moderating role. She also explained that offering organizational social support to customers who are low in service literacy and who face high coproduction workload can backfire, resulting in lower compliance and loyalty intentions. Finally, positive service outcomes result from customers appraising coproduction tasks as a positive challenge.
Transformative Effects of Reiki, Yoga, and Massage Services on Cancer Patient Well-Being (Prof Mark Rosenbaum, Northern Illinois University)
Mark’s presentation focused on cancer resource centres that often provide cancer patients with complementary therapies in conjunction with conventional cancer treatment. His research simultaneously explored the effects of yoga, massage, and Reiki services on the well-being of 150 members of a cancer resource centre. The experimental design measures the effect of 50 members receiving yoga, massage, and Reiki, respectively, on six well-being outcomes (stress, pain, anxiety, mood, overall health, and overall quality of life) at two periods, before and after each class. The results reveal that all three services help assuage stress, anxiety, improve mood, and enhance members’ perceived overall and quality of life. In terms of pain relief, the Reiki has the greatest impact on lessening a participant’s pain compared with either massage or yoga.
A Transformative Service Research Approach to Positive Customer Feedback (Ms Linda Nasr, Manchester Business School)
Finally, Linda, who is Jamie Burton’s (MBS) and my PhD student, gave a presentation on the impact of positive customer feedback on the well-being of front-line employees. She proposed a theoretical framework illustrating potential categories of positive customer feedback and their impact at micro (front-line employees), meso (company) and macro levels (society). Seven focus groups were conducted with front-line employees in service companies and a refined framework was developed based on the data analysis. Encouraging a multidisciplinary approach, her research proposes an agenda for further research on TSR and on customer feedback.
The Special Session was very well attended and we had a lively discussion afterwards. I particularly enjoyed the session as it focused on important topics that are not commonly addressed in service research. My sincere thanks go to Martin who organised and chaired this excellent session and to everyone who participated.
The photo shows (from left to right): Dr Maura Scott, Ms Linda Nasr, Dr Laurel Anderson, Prof Thorsten Gruber, Prof Mary Jo Bitner, Prof Mark Rosenbaum and Dr Martin Mende
As TSR is a crucial topic in service research, I am currently organising a TSR Roundtable Discussion at the 39th Annual Macromarketing Conference together with Professor Per Skalen from CTF – Service Research Center at Karlstad University, Sweden. The aim is to critically discuss what TSR can bring to the Macromarketing community and vice versa. Confirmed Roundtable participants are:
- Professor Thorsten Gruber, Centre for Service Management, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK
- Professor Mark Rosenbaum, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, USA
- Professor Per Skalen, CTF Service Research Center, Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden
- Dr Robert Cluley, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
- Dr Heiko Gebauer, EAWAG, Switzerland
- Dr Johanna Gummerus, Hanken Schol of Economics, Helsinki, Finland
- Ms Linda Nasr, Manchester Business School, Manchester, UK
Time and Place: Royal Holloway, University of London, July 2nd-5th 2014 (please check http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/sbe/research/centres/csm/activitiesandevents/ closer to the event for the exact day and time).
Feel free to email me if you would like to find out more!