guest article by Pierre Eiglier, Professor Emeritus, IAE Aix Graduate School of Management 

The French La Londe Conference in Service Management did not begin in the Côte d’Azur La Londe resort area but in a much more secluded and austere spot: the Sénanque 12th century Cistercian Abbey in Provence ( which induced many of the unique characteristics that the Conference still possesses to this day.

It was 1975 when Eric Langeard, Jean Paul Leonardi and me, Marketing Professors at Institut d’Administration des Entreprises, Universitè d’Aix Marseille, back from various stays in the USA, decided to start a Marketing conference focusing on the blooming discipline of Services Marketing. At the time, we had already devoted four years of research to services, developed new courses in Services Management, and carried out some consulting assignments.  We felt it was the time to stimulate interdisciplinary exchanges between scholars approaching the set of new, exciting issues that were emerging in the service domain.

With this objective in mind, we decided to look for a venue that would allow to spend three days in an isolated, not too expensive place, and to offer enough time to each selected paper for a thorough presentation and a deep discussion.

The initial edition was held in June 1976. The conference rules were tight and clear: a three-days conference, attended by a small group of around thirty scholars for its entire duration, and one hour for the presentation and the discussion of the paper of each participant.

At that time, there were two competing tracks, Marketing and Services Marketing, the selection of papers was carried out by the organizers and two external Chairmen, and the official language was English. This last requirement was quite difficult as most European scholars and especially the French (!) at the time did not master the English language…

In spite of rather Spartan accommodations and inevitable problems in setting up a new conference, enthusiasm was high, due essentially to the quality of interactions and to the depth of discussion of new and relevant issues.  We decided to keep going, and twelve successful editions of the Conference were held in Sénanque until Cistercians monks came back to live in the Abbey and devoted it exclusively to religious activities.

The new location we found was La Londe, a spectacular spot close to the Mediterranean Sea, facing the Porquerolles and Port Cros islands, surrounded by vineyards… and sufficiently isolated. Although we kept the spirit and the basic rules of Sénanque, we implemented two major changes: we doubled the number of participants, and separated the Services Management from the Marketing Conference. The first edition of La Londe Service Research Conference took place in June 1990 and it was as successful as it was in Sénanque.
Early in the 21st century a new generation of young and brilliant scholars devoted to services from Aix Marseille, France, and Bologna, Italy, increasingly took the lead of the organizing and scientific committee: Sylvie Llosa, Chiara Orsingher, Valérie Mathieu and later Kiane Goudarzi and Lionel Nicod; their youth, intelligence, scientific competence, and determination have carried the conference through the following years while preserving its basics and spirit.
In May 2016 we held the 14th edition of the La Londe Service Research Conference and it has been once more a success; this edition was in fact the 40th anniversary of the initial Sénanque Seminar. Next year, in June 2018 we will host the 15th edition, with the collaboration of three remarkable track chairs: Mike Brady for the human resources track, Joy Field for the service operations track and Jochen Wirtz for the marketing track.

All along these years the success of the Conference resides in the ability of the Aix-en-Provence team to maintain the key elements of this original formula while adapting to the changes and the new challenges of today’s world; but above all the key has been the indefectible support, loyalty, and friendship of the Service Research academic community.

Pierre Eiglier
Professor Emeritus
IAE Aix Graduate School of Management – Aix Marseille University