Guest article by Ruud Wetzels, Jos Lemmink, Werner Kunz, Kristina Heinonen and Martin Wetzels

In recent years, new technologies have radically transformed the way individuals, businesses and society function. Developments in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, Internet of things (IoT), virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) are disrupting virtually all industries and sectors. The service sector, in particular, seems to feel these effects since the way service providers interact with their customers will never be the same again. Whether you look at business-to-consumer or business-to-business service settings, technology is taking center stage. In fact, the sheer speed of technological advancements is pushing both academia and business to reimagine their existing frameworks.

In this time of change, we set out to discover whether the understanding of service technologies (and their effects) is aligned between academia and business, or if researchers and managers develop their field in different directions (Kunz, Heinonen and Lemmink, 2019; for the full text of our study see:

Text Mining

We used text mining to compare the content of articles in academic and business publication outlets from the last two years (read also Francisco’s guest article on text mining tools and Mohamed and Benjamin’s guest article on text mining applications). This approach allowed us to develop a structured overview for 1) service journals, 2) service conferences, 3) business journals, and 4) business (technology) magazines. We mapped the content of service journals and business journals to gain a holistic overview of the current understanding of service technologies for both perspectives. Moreover, to determine potential future trends we focus on service conference papers and business (technology) magazine articles, which are by nature more forward-looking. The overview is presented in the figure below.

The Future of Service Technology Research is Bright

The results of our study suggest that, thus far, service journals seem to rather acknowledge the role of service technologies in general instead of studying them in an applied setting or discuss concrete implications of specific technologies (quadrant 1 shows that the concept technology and actual technologies are rather distant). Relatedly, attention in service journals is largely put on managerial consequences and relatively less on the impact of technologies on customers (the concept technology is mainly surrounded by internal processes in quadrant 1).

On the upside, service conference papers – as an indicator of the future trajectory of service research contributions – concretely deal with more technologies and their managerial consequences and customer impacts (the concept technology is surrounded by actual technologies and both internal and external processes in quadrant 2). This suggests that the service domain seems to be heading in the right direction.

Different but Complementary Foci on Novel Service Technologies

Comparing these insights to the focus of the business perspective reveals a clearly diverging picture. Overall, considerably more concrete technologies are discussed, but the discussion is less about actual managerial and consumer issues (more concrete technologies are discernible in quadrants 3 and 4, but they seem relatively less integrated with internal and external processes). Especially business magazine articles undoubtedly focus on future technologies, showcasing their potential to serve as a source of inspiration for service researchers. As the pace of innovation and the introduction of new technologies increases, this source will only gain relevance. Conversely, service conference papers deal with relatively new technologies that could supply business journals with the newest insights beyond the technologies themselves. They also integrate managerial and customer impacts that could speed up knowledge transfer to the business community. Evidently, academia and business show different but complementary foci when it comes to novel service technologies.

What’s Next?

Our study shows that future service research should consider more technologies over a broader spectrum (e.g. drones, brain-computer interfaces) and business magazines offer valuable input for academic research agendas. In turn, academic research can supplement insights from business outlets by focusing on the management of technologies from a company’s point of view and the integration of customer roles and needs. Directing future research efforts to the unveiled research areas can help to align the focus of business and academia for the mutual benefit.

From a methodological standpoint, we believe text mining will continue to gain importance for our discipline. Combining text mining with other techniques could expand our arsenal to keep pace with technological developments, and the evolution of our discipline at large.


Werner H. Kunz, Kristina Heinonen, Jos G.A.M. Lemmink (2019): “Future Service Technologies – Is Service Research on Track with Business Reality?,” Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 33, forthcoming [Link]

Ruud Wetzels is a PhD candidate at Maastricht University, School of Business and Economics, Netherlands.

Jos Lemmink is a Professor in Marketing and Service Innovation at Maastricht University, School of Business and Economics, Netherlands.

Werner Kunz is an Associate Professor in Marketing at the University of Massachusetts Boston, United States.

Kristina Heinonen is a Professor in Service and Relationship Marketing at Hanken School of Economics, Finland.

Martin Wetzels is a Professor in Marketing and Supply Chain Research at Maastricht University, School of Business and Economics, Netherlands.