by Sabine BenoitKatrin ScherschelZelal AtesLinda Nasr, and Jay Kandampully

The publication we want to share the main results with you was the outcome of group work emanating from a “Lets Talk About Service (LTAS)” workshop. We felt that examining manuscripts published in JOSM will provide researchers with valuable information that is not available elsewhere. We started by analysing five years of Journal of Service Management (JoSM) articles (158) on several criteria such as theory, methodology, and main descriptive elements (e.g. number of authors or references) and then using manual coding and automated text analysis (e.g. investigating the readability of articles) to make two main contributions: First, we wanted to showcase the diversity of service research and second we wanted to explain (post-publication) success of articles. With this, out study aims to 1) stimulate a dialogue about existing norms and practices in the service field; 2) enable and encourage openness amongst service scholars; and 3) motivate (especially younger) scholars to join the field.

Some of the most interesting results show that:

  • Around 80% of articles are empirical, with 20% being conceptual
  • Though conceptual articles create the same amount of interest (downloads), their usage is higher (citations).
  • No authors positioned their paper as theory development, and only some as theory extension.
  • 31% test theory (e.g. equity theory), whereas around 20% test concepts (e.g. customer experience).
  • 80% of manuscripts base their research on one concept or theory only, the Service-Dominant Logic being the most popular one
  • From articles using primary data, 34% collected qualitative data (i.e. text) and 54% collected quantitative data (i.e. numbers) with 12% mixing both.
  • From articles using primary data, 52% use customer-level data (B2C), 41% use firm-level data (B2B), with another 7% using both.
  • Only 3% of the empirical papers are solely based on transaction data and 12% used a combination of self-reported and transaction data.
  • On average and according to the Flesch-Kincaid score, JoSM articles score higher in reading difficulty than JM articles.
  • The average number of authors in all sampled papers is 3, only 6% of the author teams included a practitioner.

In the article beyond our own derived implications we have asked a number of established service scholars to provide their opinion on the implications of this study for the service discipline, some of them listed below:

  • A must-read for new service scholars:
    “This paper is a must-read for new service scholars and scholars from other fields that are warmly welcomed to join the service community as this paper offers relevant insights and guidelines on how future interdisciplinary contributions to our service discipline can be made.” (Bart Larivière)
  • Service research field is in thriving health and is growing steadily:
    Encouragement to join the service field can be deduced from Ray Fisk’s and Bo Edvardsson’s observations that “this study shows that the service research field is in thriving health. The diversity of topics, concepts, methods, and collaborations demonstrates a robust hybrid vigor in service research (Fisk)” and that “service research is a dynamic and growing academic field, covering a wide range of topics, theories, methods and contributions (Bo Edvardsson).”
  • Too many CB-centric papers, too little strategy papers:
    Jochen Wirtz states that there are “too many papers [that] are CB-centric and uses variables that have been studied extensively sometimes for two or more decades, e.g. service quality, customer satisfaction, trust, loyalty, engagement.” “Far too few papers are published that relate to ‘Services Strategy” and then he gives examples like service marketing and strategy interface, service marketing performance measurement, service firms’ organizational structure and strategy behavior, service marketing capabilities, service business model innovation, strategic service leadership, competitiveness in the service economy.
  • More papers on breakthrough innovation and technology are needed:
    Jochen Wirtz and Bo Edvardsson recommend that papers about “breakthrough developments in the market place that dramatically change the customer experience should be encouraged, e.g. wearable technology, geo tagging, robotics, drones, virtual reality, speech recognition, Internet of Things, or artificial intelligence. Wirtz states that “the discipline seems to be years behind industry”.
  • Collaborate with practitioners:
    To enhance the managerial relevance and possibly the novelty of service research, Edvardsson recommends to develop close relations with practitioners and give priority to novel approaches in empirical studies.
  • Be more open, write and publish more conceptual articles:
    Even though anecdotal evidence suggests conceptual articles are harder to publish they have shown to have an above average influence on the discipline and thus our experts recommend writing more conceptual articles (Brodie, Parasuraman, Wirtz). For example, Parasuraman believes that it is especially important to emphasize the need for greater scholarly research attention on developing new conceptual frameworks/theories than at present, along with greater openness in the review process towards novel approaches that deviate from conventional ‘norms’ in conducting such research.
  • More theory development is needed:
    Papers developing theory offer opportunities to make a significant contribution. This leads Parasuraman to suggest: “A fruitful avenue for correcting the current theory testing vs. theory developing imbalance in the service literature is to sponsor special issues based on thought-leadership symposia in which teams of invited scholars from multiple disciplines work together and develop conceptual papers.”
  • Write in a simple and accessible way.
    Since on average JoSM articles score higher in reading difficulty than JM articles, we encourage service researchers to write in a simple and accessible way and be reminded that elaborate, difficult writing and an overemphasis of terminology is not a testament of knowledge!
  • Use more transaction data and don’t apply the same judgement criteria:
    The authors encourage more authors/papers (than 15%) to use transaction data from the managerial world as opposed to self-reported behaviour. To make that happen we also encourage reviewers to not apply the same judgement criteria for transaction data, but realise that reducing one bias (e.g. more realistic, less artificial) will likely lead to enhancing another one (e.g. no access to usual demographics, controls).
  • Reviewers, be more tolerant with firm-level data:
    Reviewers are encouraged to acknowledge that it may be more difficult to collect firm-level data. When dealing with manuscripts based on firm-level data, reviewers should carefully consider the common suggestion to collect new data during the review process. Authors, on the other hand, are encouraged to anticipate what issues might be raised in the review process, take extra care to ensure the validity and reliability of data as well as include a substantial number of control variables so as to be able to respond to any issues.

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Read the entire article:

Sabine Benoit, Katrin Scherschel, Zelal Ates, Linda Nasr, Jay Kandampully, (2017): “Showcasing the diversity of service research: Theories, methods, and success of service articles”, Journal of Service Management, Vol. 28 Issue: 5, pp.810-836.

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