From June 22-25, 2017, Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business in New York City, hosted over 400 service researchers and practitioners from over 40 countries.  “The Gabelli School takes great responsibility and finds great meaning in being this year’s host institution, as both we and the Frontiers in Service community are dedicated to fostering the visibility and impact of high-caliber service research and management practice,” noted Dean Donna Rapaccioli. “Service research is among the hallmarks of academic inquiry at the Gabelli School.”

The conference welcome reception began on Thursday evening, June 22nd.  With over 100 first time Frontiers participants, the reception offered an opportunity for them to experience the warm, welcoming, and generous spirit that are the hallmarks of the community of service researchers and practitioners.

The conference began in earnest on Friday morning, June 23rd, with a warm welcome from Dean Donna Rapaccioli, Provost Stephen Freedman, and conference co-chairs Lerzan Aksoy and Timothy Keiningham.  The conference then kicked off with something new: a C-Suite roundtable made up of three C-Level executives, Dan Hesse (past CEO of Sprint Corporation), Sharon Price John (CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop), and Adam Goldstein (President & COO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.), which was moderated by Robert Reiss (Host & CEO of The CEO Forum).  Each of these executives have strong reputations for building premier organizations through a focus on service.  A key takeaway from each of their experiences was succinctly summed up in a statement from Adam Goldstein. “There is no way to provide acceptable—never mind award-winning—customer service in the next 50 years, without taking full advantage of mobility and data.”

Here is a link to the Forbes Article published today featuring key take-aways from the Opening CEO Panel.

As service research has grown tremendously across a wide range of disciplines, this year’s conference sought to foster greater knowledge transfer across a wider spectrum of disciplines and company best practices.  To do so, after the opening C-Suite round table, conference attendees chose among several simultaneous concurrent sessions, as well as separate poster sessions throughout the day.

The afternoon plenary session was led by Professor Leonard Schlesinger of the Harvard Business School and co-creator of the Service Profit Chain.  He brought to the fore many of the findings that he and his colleagues have uncovered regarding what is required for breakthrough service leadership.  One of Dr. Schlesinger’s key messages was that the current beliefs about the future of services are largely wrong.  As a result, long-term success requires building “agile service organizations that learn, innovate, and adapt.”  Professor A. “Parsu” Parasuraman of the University of Miami and co-creator of the SERVQUAL model added his insights to offer some food for thought for service researchers and practitioners, and pointed to a new meta-analysis of the Service Profit Chain that appears in a recent issue of the Journal of Marketing.  Dr. Parasuraman pointed to the need for greater cross-disciplinary research (beyond the more traditional marketing-HR-operations collaborations) to advance our understanding of what distinguishes great service leaders.

Friday evening was a gala Award Dinner in Times Square at the New York Marriott Marquis.  After a sumptuous meal, we celebrated the contributions of many of our colleagues with an awards ceremony that recognized some of the most important accomplishments in the field.  This was followed by hours of live music and dancing, which made this a very NYC Times Square evening.

Saturday morning, June 24rd, was kicked off by one of the world’s most in-demand speakers, Chester Elton (New York Times Bestselling Author of The Carrot Principle, What Motivates Me, and All In).  Elton’s talk drew from a 2-year study of 300,000 people on the elements of great work cultures.  Great company cultures exhibit “Three Es”: Engagement (strong attachment to company), Enabled (environment supports performance), and Energized (greater sense of well-being and drive).  And when all three are present, financial returns are significantly higher.

Heather Evans (CMO at ITG) led the second plenary session of the morning.  Evans provided an up-close look at what it really means to transform a company by focusing on the customer.  She came to ITG as part of a turn-around, and quickly refreshed the company’s visual identity and reclaimed the intellectual high ground associated with the company, while at the same time working to transform the culture and develop greater intimacy and input with and from clients.

The Saturday afternoon plenary session was led by Professor V. Kumar of Georgia State University (and current editor of the Journal of Marketing). Dr. Kumar presented new research that examined the impact of economic and relational messaging on buyer behavior in B-to-B settings.  The results demonstrated that customers vary in the impact of these different types of messaging, and often require transition from economic to relational, and vice-versa.  Professor Jochen Wirtz of the National University of Singapore followed by pointing to the imperative of segmenting and tiering the customer base to gauge the best course of action for increasing the size and share of wallet for B-to-B clients.

Saturday evening was a three-hour networking dinner cruise around New York’s Hudson River. In addition to great food, guests saw spectacular views of New York City—the sun setting over the Statue of Liberty, One World Trade Center lit in rainbow colors and the spectacular NYC skyline—from one of the best vantage points possible.

The plenary sessions on Sunday, June 25th, focused on how we as service researchers can work to build a better world.  The first plenary session discussed transformative service.  It was led by Patrick Struebi, the founder and CEO of Fairtrasa (a global social enterprise that empowers small-scale farmers to lift themselves out of poverty).  Struebi has created one of the largest, vertically integrated organic and fair-trade fruit exporters from Latin America.  Struebi ended his talk by acknowledging that global change is beyond the reach of any single social entrepreneur—it requires the academic community to help create systemic change.  Lerzan Aksoy of Fordham University followed by building on this theme, specifically, focusing on how Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business uses its Social Innovation Collaboratory to infuse a mindset of social innovation throughout the curriculum.  Ray Fisk of Texas State University closed by introducing the Transformative Service Collaboratory, an “innovative transdisciplinary collaborative for relieving suffering and improving human well-being for individuals, families, cities, and society” that will establish field research projects that take service scholars where unfairness is greatest.

The final plenary session focused on discrimination in service.  Roland Rust (founder of the Frontiers in Service Conference) and Kalinda Ukanwa of the University of Maryland presented groundbreaking research that demonstrated that unintended discrimination (e.g. racial, ethic, gender, etc.) can happen in purely rational settings in a quest to maximize business outcomes.  Their findings, however, indicate that these gains from discrimination are short-term as over the long-term word of mouth effects damage a firm’s financial prospects.

After three days of amazing speakers and memorable social events, the close of the conference was bittersweet.  On one hand, it was inspirational and exhilarating to share and learn with so many wonderful colleagues and friends.  On the other hand, it is always sad to say goodbye to so many dear friends who share the same passion for service.  Despite this being the largest Frontiers conference in its 26-year history, it still maintained the warm, friendly atmosphere that we have come to expect. It really is a testament to the wonderful community that is service research.

Please find below photos categorized by day and event for your convenience.

SERVSIG Doctoral Consortium Photos:

Frontiers 2017 OPENING RECEPTION Photos:






2017 Frontiers in Service Best Practitioner Presentation Award

Charles Colby, Sunil Mithas, and A. “Parsu” Parasuraman, “The Role of Digitally Rich Experiences in Satisfying Service Customers”


Manuel Koser, Paul Cook, Peter Allerstorfer, Timothy Keiningham, Lerzan Aksoy, Fabienne Cadet, “Building Service Businesses in the Developing World”

Ronny Schüritz, Gerhard Satzger, and Ella Mittelbach, “How to Cultivate Analytics Capabilities within an Organization? Design Options of Shared  Service Center for Analytics”

Raj Singh, Mike Giebelhausen, and Stacey Robinson, “Using Artificial Intelligence to Make Frontline Service More Human”

David Spivak, Shelly Ashtar, Daniel Altman, Anat Rafaeli, Michal Shmueli-Scheuer and Tommy Sandbank, “New Customer Service Platforms: Emotion in Twitter Service Delivery and an Emotionally-Responsive Service Robot”

2017 Frontiers in Service Best Poster Presentation Award

Maria-Susana Jaramillo-Echeverri, Brett Christenson, Thomas L. Baker, “Social Anxiety in Service Encounters: Mediating Effects of Reduced Social Discomfort During Service Encounters”


Matthias Ruefenacht, Philipp Hendrik Steiner, Tobias Schlager, Peter Maas, “The Effect of Power Distance on Customer Loyalty in a Service Environment”

Lisa Schoner-Schatz, Verena Hofmann, Nicola Stokburger-Sauer, “Successfully Promoting Services through Social Media: The Role of Emotional Contagion and the Message’s Source”