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guest article by Laurie Anderson, Martin Mende, Ray Fisk and Linda Nasr

With great pleasure we share with the SERVSIG community the highlights of the Transformative Service Research (TSR) tracks at the 2015 Transformative Consumer Research Conference hosted by Villanova University on May 31 –June 2, 2015. The theme of this biennial conference was “Transformative Intersections”. Ron Hill, Julie L. Ozanne and Brennan Davis chaired this innovative dialogical conference[1] in its 5th edition!

TSR was first introduced and gained considerable traction at the 2011 Transformative Consumer Research Conference. Since then, TSR has sparked significant interest, as is illustrated by various important indicators:

  • The two TSR articles resulting from the 2011 conference were published in the Journal of Business Research (Anderson et al. 2013) and the Journal of Research for Consumers (Rosenbaum et al. 2011).
  • The Journal of Service Research (JSR) recently published a Special Issue on TSR edited by Laurel Anderson and Amy Ostrom (May 2015 issue). This special issue attracted numerous submissions (N = 86) and promises to expand interest in TSR.
  • TSR has been quickly recognized as an important subfield within service science, as various review papers (in marketing and beyond) have noted (e.g., Ostrom et al. 2015; Anderson 2010; Baron, Warnaby, and Hunter-Jones 2014; Ostrom, Mathras, and Anderson 2014). Consistent with this notion, the current editor of JSR, Mary Jo Bitner, has explicitly identified TSR as a fertile research area in one of her editorials (Bitner 2014).

As a new topic, more work is needed to further push the boundaries of extant service research and enrich it from a transformative perspective. Therefore, at the 2015 TCR conference, amongst the 22 participating tracks, TSR was represented by two tracks aiming to advance knowledge under the overarching theme of Transformative Services and Justice. These tracks were inspired by the idea that TSR focuses on creating uplifting changes and improvements in the well-being of both individuals and communities, seeking to better the quality of life of present and future generations of consumers and citizens through services (Anderson 2010). This definition not only indicates the considerable breadth of TSR, but it also illustrates the urgent need to expand service research into the social justice area. Here, social justice represents the idea that the freedom to achieve well-being is a fundamental precept. As such, social justice encompasses fairness and mutual obligation in society: that we are responsible for one another, and that we should ensure that all have equal opportunity to build their capabilities and to succeed in life (Rawls 1971, Sen 1993). There are a number of issues in the services/social justice arena that could be addressed through the TSR lens: conflicting interests and needs, who decides what is well-being and social justice, unintended consequences, power and co-creation and consumer voice.

At this year’s TCR Conference, in collaboration with the conference chairs, we integrated the large number of submissions received into two overarching themes as follows:

TSR Track 1: Co-creation Experiences through the Lens of Vulnerable Service Consumers:

This track focused on social justice-issues related to the co-creation of services with regard to consumer vulnerability, marketplace discrimination, powerless audiences, and/or consumer responsibilization and the market paradigm.

Track chairs: Laurel Anderson and Martin Mende

Track members: Amy Ostrom, Sterling Bone, Josephine Go Jefferies, Courtney Baker, Hilary Downey, Jelena Spanjol, Per Skalen, and Justine Rapp.

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TSR Track 2: TSR-Inspirations for the Organizational Provision of Services:

This track took a more organization-oriented emphasis to TSR and Social Justice. It focused more on managerial/organizational issues related to the design and delivery of services inspired by the idea of (i) promoting human dignity, (ii) identifying novel stressors for service employees (e.g., customer feedback, aesthetic labor), (iii) establishing a climate of justice in service organizations and service networks, and (iv) exploring how service organizations/networks can use service technologies as a platform to promote well-being.

Track chairs: Ray Fisk and Linda Nasr

Track members: Andrew Gallan, Sandy Ng, Steve Rayburn, Sanjit Roy and Roberta Sebastiani

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Both tracks began their collaborative work four months prior to the conference by exchanging ideas and papers to leverage the combined expertise and insights from the group. This preparatory work contributed to fruitful and provocative discussions during the conference. Finally, both tracks are currently working on developing their work into academic papers.

We hope that TSR keeps attracting new participants seeking to further develop the Transformative Service Research Paradigm as we adhere to the TCR movement motto of “changing the world one journal article at a time”!

TSR Track Chairs,

Laurie, Martin, Ray and Linda

[1] For more details about the dialogical TCR conference, please see the special issues of Journal of Research for Consumers (Vol. 19, 2011) and Journal of Business Research (Vol. 66, 2013).