Chatura Ranaweera and Marianna Sigala, co-editors of the Journal of Service Theory and Practice (JSTP) are very pleased to announce and congratulate the winners of the best paper award, and the three highly commended papers, as well as the two best reviewers, 2019. We join them in congratulating the winners and recognising their contribution to the service field.

Best Paper Award

Jodie Conduit, Ingo Oswald Karpen, and Kieran D. Tierney (2019) “Volunteer engagement: conceptual extensions and value-in-context outcomes”

The ability to attract and retain volunteers is crucial for not-for-profit organizations, and consequently, the need to understand and manage volunteers’ engagement is paramount. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the role of five volunteer engagement dimensions (cognitive, affective, behavioral, social and spiritual engagement) on perceived value-in-context, and its subsequent role for volunteer retention. Thus, providing for the first time an understanding of how unique types of value are determined through different facets of volunteer engagement.
To establish the nature and consequences of volunteer engagement, the authors collaborated with an Australian not-for-profit service organization. Using a survey method, the authors studied the organization’s volunteer workforce resulting in 464 usable responses. To capture volunteers’ degree of spiritual engagement, this paper introduces a rigorously developed unidimensional measure.
The results demonstrate the importance of the five engagement dimensions on volunteers’ perceived value-in-context, while highlighting significant effect differences including some counterintuitive consequences. The authors also establish the role of spiritual engagement and demonstrate the impact of value-in-context for volunteer retention.
This research explores the volunteer engagement-retention chain, by empirically studying the role of value-in-context. The authors provide first evidence for the relationship between volunteer engagement and value-in-context, examining the independent yet relative effects of various facets of volunteer engagement. In doing so, the authors offer new insight into the dimensionality of the volunteer engagement construct, broadening its conceptualization to include spiritual engagement as a core constituent. The authors further demonstrate the impact of value-in-context on volunteer retention, helping organizations to better make sense of meaningful volunteer experiences with long-lasting impacts and mutual benefits.

Highly Commended Papers

(chronological order of publication)

Apiradee Wongkitrungrueng, Krittinee Nuttavuthisit, Teodora Szabo-Douat, and Sankar Sen (2019) “Customer deference to service providers in ordinary service encounters”

The purpose of this paper is to explore the nature of customer deference to service providers in service encounters, and articulate its chief antecedents, experiences and consequences.
Data were collected in Thailand, using critical incident technique. A total of 253 subjects share their experiences of being “deferential” (i.e. “kreng-jai” in Thailand) during everyday service encounters.
The findings indicate that in cultures in which the cultural norm (i.e. kreng-jai) is to be considerate of others, customers often become deferential of the service provider during service encounters, especially when customers perceive that the service provider’s well-being is compromised. However, customer deference involves aversive feelings which lead customers to devise coping strategies and avoid future contact with a company.
Using a specific cultural norm, the findings challenge prior finding that people from collectivist culture are more likely to tolerate and be satisfied with service encounters, and document the role of previously unexamined customer-related factors in driving satisfaction in ordinary service encounters.
The findings recommend service providers to preempt customers’ deference by establishing and communicating the role and acceptable behaviors, managing physical distance with customers, and monitoring customer non-verbal behavior and facial expressions to detect the customers’ true feelings.
No prior research has comprehensively examined the phenomenon whereby consumers seek to benefit service providers at the expense of their own well-being. This study demonstrates that customer deference degrades customer satisfaction even in ordinary service encounters.

Xu Song, and Cindy T. Christen (2019) “Applying Schema Resonance Model in live chat e-service”

Live chat e-service provides a communication platform for online customers to make information inquiries and receive instantaneous assistance from a service representative. It is important for organizations to explore ways to improve their live chat e-service. The purpose of this paper is to propose a new organization–customer communication model (Schema Resonance Model), explicate how schema resonance can be achieved in live chat e-service, and investigate the impact of schema resonance on live chat e-service effectiveness, efficiency, customer satisfaction and intention of continued use.
A post-test only, between-subjects experiment was conducted. A total of 409 participants completed the experiment sessions, and 389 of these participants were used in the analysis.
Research results suggest schema resonance could improve the time efficiency of the live chat e-service while maintaining e-service effectiveness. Schema resonance could increase customer satisfaction with the overall e-service, the communication approach used by the representative and the information provided.
Because a convenience sample was used in the experiment, results cannot be generalized to all live chat e-service users. Future research should include observation of real-world organization–customer live chat e-service sessions.
Organizations can consider applying the Schema Resonance Model in live chat e-service practices to enhance customer satisfaction and increase representatives’ service productivity.
This research proposes and tests a new organization–customer communication model to explore how organizations can improve live chat e-service in response to customers’ information inquiries.

Tony Garry, and Tracy Harwood (2019) “Cyborgs as frontline service employees: A research agenda”

The purpose of this paper is to identify and explore potential applications of cyborgian technologies within service contexts and how service providers may leverage the integration of cyborgian service actors into their service proposition. In doing so, the paper proposes a new category of “melded” frontline employees (FLEs), where advanced technologies become embodied within human actors. The paper presents potential opportunities and challenges that may arise through cyborg technological advancements and proposes a future research agenda related to these.
This study draws on literature in the fields of services management, artificial intelligence, robotics, intelligence augmentation (IA) and human intelligence to conceptualise potential cyborgian applications.
The paper examines how cyborg bio- and psychophysical characteristics may significantly differentiate the nature of service interactions from traditional “unenhanced” service interactions. In doing so, the authors propose “melding” as a conceptual category of technological impact on FLEs. This category reflects the embodiment of emergent technologies not previously captured within existing literature on cyborgs. The authors examine how traditional roles of FLEs will be potentially impacted by the integration of emergent cyborg technologies, such as neural interfaces and implants, into service contexts before outlining future research directions related to these, specifically highlighting the range of ethical considerations.
Service interactions with cyborg FLEs represent a new context for examining the potential impact of cyborgs. This paper explores how technological advancements will alter the individual capacities of humans to enable such employees to intuitively and empathetically create solutions to complex service challenges. In doing so, the authors augment the extant literature on cyborgs, such as the body hacking movement. The paper also outlines a research agenda to address the potential consequences of cyborgian integration.

Best Reviewer Awards

– Dr Kostas Alexandris, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
– Professor Cleopatra A Veloutsou, University of Glasgow, UK

Previous JSTP Awards