Guest Article by Jochen Wirtz, NUS Business School, National University of Singapore

The National University of Singapore was honored to host the 28thFrontiers in Service Conference. I am pleased to share some reflections and the many awards given at the conference.

Frontiers 2019 was one of the most diverse conferences ever held with 308 delegates from 40 countries!  We had 163 competitive papers, 11 keynotes, and 23 posters. The selectivity of presentations on future-oriented topics was high with an acceptance rate of only 46%.

Conference Themes

This year’s conference had a strong future orientation – many keynotes and papers focused on digitization, artificial intelligence (AI), data mining, big data, analytics, blockchains, smart service systems, robotic service process automation, service robots, automated social presence, virtual reality, digital content, platform business models, market-shaping through rapid technological innovation, and more.

The service sector seems to be at an inflection point with regard to technology-driven productivity gains, innovation and service industrialization, similar to the industrial revolution in manufacturing that started in the 18th century.  Rapidly developing technologies become smarter, smaller, and cheaper. They will transform virtually all service sectors with their unprecedented economies of scale and scope, and the opportunities they offer for a dramatically improved customer experience, quality and firm productivity all at the same time. The service revolution has begun! … and perhaps our SERVSIG community will recall that it was at Frontiers 2019 that for the first time a main-stream service conference was dominated by these topics!

There were, of course, many other important topics represented including sustainability, social innovation, humane service systems, service (system) design, market-shaping, change management, customer engagement, customer experience, nudging, culture, employee wellbeing, employee ambidexterity and many other topics related to service employees and service operations management.


The keynotes on day 1 were all by practitioners who shared their organization’s journeys towards digitization, innovation and breaking new ground in customer service by going beyond global best practices. The three speakers represented some of the globally very best organizations in their respective industries, Changi Airport in Singapore (the world’s most awarded airport), Singapore Airlines (the world’s most awarded airline) and DBS Bank (recently won the “World’s Best Bank” and World’s Best Digital Bank). The presentations by Liew Mun Leong (Chairman of Changi Airport Group), Campbell Wilson (Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Singapore Airlines), and David Gledhill (Group Chief Information Officer, Head Technology and Operations, DBS Bank) demonstrated what even for large service organizations can achieve with a clear vision and strong leadership in moving an organization toward becoming digital to the heart. However, these journeys took up to 10 years! Pascal Bornet (Leader, Artificial Intelligence and Process Automation, McKinsey & Company) demonstrated what will be the next big waves in robotic (service) process automation. The potential for service improvements and productivity gains demonstrated by the few cases Pascal shared were eye-opening for many.

The day 2 keynotes followed with the academic perspective. Wolfgang Ulaga (Professor of Marketing, INSEAD) share data monetization strategies, challenges and opportunities. Kapil Tuli (Professor of Marketing, Singapore Management University) discussed the changes and opportunities of social media as a commercial channel, and the structural, technological and cultural changes required to succeed.  Ming-Hui Huang (Distinguished Professor of E-Commerce, National Taiwan University) discussed the implications for the workforce given the rapid advancement of AI and demonstrated that advanced economies will be moving towards a “Feeling Economy”.

The last keynote presenter on day two, John Bateson (Visiting Professor of Management, Cass Business School, City University), discussed the implications of our aging societies for service research and practice. Healthy aging customers differ significantly to the typical samples in service research in how they make decisions, experience and navigate service encounters, and their satisfaction judgment and loyalty behaviors. Research opportunities are abound.

Day 3 started with a high-energy keynote by Avi Liran (Chief Delighting Officer, Delivering Delight Pte. Ltd.) on the importance of delight and tips how we all can become chief delight officers and create a better world. Anat Rafaeli (Professor of Industrial Engineering, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology) share the broad stream of emotions as part of service delivery and how new technologies offer exciting opportunities for measuring emotions in never-before detail. The last keynote was a session with Paul Jones (CEO, The Lux Collective), Ron Kaufman (Co-founder of UP! Your Service Pte. Ltd.) and Jochen Wirtz (Professor of Marketing, National University of Singapore) on how to stage a service revolution that instills a culture that has service excellence and innovation at its core.

We look forward to the next Frontiers in Service Conference in Singapore on July 18-21,2019 and we hope to see many of you there!

In closing, I hope to see many of you in next year at the Frontiers in Service 2020 Conference in Boston where it will be hosted by Babson University, Jun 25-28, 2020.  Deadline for abstract submission:  Nov 30, 2019. Put the dates into your diary!

Conference website:

Conference photo gallery:

More new photos in our SERVSIG gallery here