Guest article by Harrison Pugh.

Our community is my home

I have found my people; I am proud to call the service research community my home. I have been lucky in life, both personally and professionally. I have found the service research community to be an extremely warm and inviting place. There are so many welcoming scholars researching services – so why can’t our universities in the U.S. produce more service scholars?

A little background: I have been a service industry professional of one sort or another almost as long as I can remember. It began as poor-kid entrepreneurialism – running a one-child landscaping company and selling snacks to my middle school classmates. I started working in restaurants (from dishwashing to chef to manager and everywhere in between), to using my industry knowledge to sell technology to restaurants. I enjoyed my time with restauranteurs and their employees – the great majority of whom are welcoming and unpretentious.

I knew since my undergrad days that I wanted to get my PhD, and naturally, I wanted to go to a great university focusing on services research. After reading a paper on “service sweethearting” (Brady, Voorhees, and Brusco 2012), and due to my history in Tallahassee, FSU won. I wanted to return to FSU, and I hoped to work with Mike Brady. I didn’t think about the fact that he was department chair, I didn’t know that Mike had recently taken over as the president of AMA or that he would eventually be the incoming editor of JSR. It wasn’t immediate, but after my first year in the PhD program he invited me under his wing as one more responsibility among many. Mike’s selflessness was my first real introduction to the welcoming nature of those who research services (for the record, I’m not pandering – my dissertation is signed!).

Our community is welcoming

The service community has been extremely welcoming – even more than you would expect from those who think deeply about serving people. At my first doctoral student consortium, I happened to meet one of the organizers. He graciously thanked me several times during and after the consortium and over time we have grown to be friends. Why? Because I asked one single question during the Q&A session.

In 2018, I was asked, out of the blue, to present some of my work at a research symposium. This was so cool for a scholar early in their career! It felt so good that an extremely well published researcher was thinking about how to include those early in their career and invited me to speak. In 2019, a service scholar welcomed me to be part of a research team at a small service research forum. Later, I was welcomed to speak at another service symposium about a theory I’ve recently used in a paper. Now, I’ve been invited to write this article. This is on top of the countless other times and ways the service research community has welcomed me with open arms. Try, for example, traveling alone to a conference in Europe. It has been my experience that there is always a group of Europeans who reach out and ask about my dinner plans – out of the blue.

Our community is expanding outside the U.S.

It may sound like I’m pandering again, but there are so many great scholars in services who are very welcoming to newcomers… yet, I feel like I’m part of a dying breed. It seems like the welcoming nature of my fellow service researchers is expanding the service research community worldwide – notably in Australasia, Asia, and Europe. This cultural diversity is one of the many amazing parts of our community, and I believe it adds to the welcoming nature of the community. I hope this expansion continues worldwide.

However, there seems to be one place where the service community is not expanding, and may even be in decline: the U.S. If you review service-related consortia (e.g. SERVSIG) or young scholar symposia (e.g. LTAS) participants’ countries, it seems obvious that the U.S. does not attract many PhD students to join the service community. This is true not only for those student/candidate meetings abroad, but even holds true when these meetings are in the U.S.

Too few are the service researchers in my school, state, or even time zone; with the lack of service PhD students in the U.S. this doesn’t seem likely to change soon. Maybe next time I’m eating in Europe with service researchers who invited me out of the blue, we can discuss how to attract PhD students to this amazing community. Otherwise, and over time, the rich tradition of service scholarship in the U.S. may vanish… into the blue.

Brady, Michael K., Clay M. Voorhees, and Michael J. Brusco (2012), “Service Sweethearting: Its Antecedents and Customer Consequences,” Journal of Marketing, 76 (2), 81–98.

Harrison B. Pugh
is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.