The Bob Johnston award recognizes researchers in the service discipline. The Journal of Service Management is delighted to announce this year’s award winners. Please join us to congratulate the winners of the outstanding paper awards, for their contribution to JoSM and to the service field. Additionally, there are six highly commended papers this year — and not just three — accommodating for the numerous high-quality papers published in JoSM. 

Outstanding Paper:

Vink, J., Edvardsson, B., Wetter-Edman, K. and Tronvoll, B. (2019), “Reshaping mental models – enabling innovation through service design”

The purpose of this paper is to analyze how service design practices reshape mental models to enable innovation. Mental models are actors’ assumptions and beliefs that guide their behavior and interpretation of their environment. This paper offers a conceptual framework for innovation in service ecosystems through service design that connects the macro view of innovation as changing institutional arrangements with the micro view of innovation as reshaping actors’ mental models. Furthermore, through an 18-month ethnographic study of service design practices in the context of healthcare, how service design practices reshape mental models to enable innovation is investigated. This research highlights that service design reshapes mental models through the practices of sensing surprise, perceiving multiples and embodying alternatives. This paper delineates the enabling conditions for these practices to occur, such as coaching, diverse participation and supportive physical materials. This study brings forward the underappreciated role of actors’ mental models in innovation. It highlights that innovation in service ecosystems is not simply about actors making changes to their external context but also actors shifting their own assumptions and beliefs. This paper offers insights for service managers and service designers interested in supporting innovation on how to catalyze shifts in actors’ mental models by creating the conditions for specific service design practices. This paper is the first to shed light on the central role of actors’ mental models in innovation and identify the service design practices that reshape mental models.

Highly Commended Papers:

#1. De Keyser, A., Köcher, S., Alkire (née Nasr), L., Verbeeck, C. and Kandampully, J. (2019), “Frontline Service Technology infusion: conceptual archetypes and future research directions”

Smart technologies and connected objects are rapidly changing the organizational frontline. Yet, our understanding of how these technologies infuse service encounters remains limited. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to update existing classifications of Frontline Service Technology (FST) infusion. Moreover, the authors discuss three promising smart and connected technologies – conversational agents, extended reality (XR) and blockchain technology – and their respective implications for customers, frontline employees and service organizations. This paper uses a conceptual approach integrating existing work on FST infusion with artificial intelligence, robotics, XR and blockchain literature, while also building on insights gathered through expert interviews and focus group conversations with members of two service research centers. The authors define FST and propose a set of FST infusion archetypes at the organizational frontline. Additionally, the authors develop future research directions focused on understanding how conversational agents, XR and blockchain technology will impact service. This paper updates and extends existing classifications of FST, while paving the road for further work on FST infusion.

#2. Benoit, S., Klose, S., Wirtz, J., Andreassen, T. and Keiningham, T. (2019), “Bridging the data divide between practitioners and academics: Approaches to collaborating better to leverage each other’s resources”

Organizations (data gatherers in the context) drown in data while at the same time seeking managerially relevant insights. Academics (data hunters) have to deal with decreasing respondent participation and escalating costs of data collection while at the same time seeking to increase the managerial relevance of their research. The purpose of this paper is to provide a framework on how, managers and academics can collaborate better to leverage each other’s resources. This research synthesizes the academic and the managerial literature on the realities and priorities of practitioners and academics with regard to data. Based on the literature, reflections from the world’s leading service research centers, and the authors’ own experiences, the authors develop recommendations on how to collaborate in research. Four dimensions of different data realities and priorities were identified: research problem, research resources, research process and research outcome. In total, 26 recommendations are presented that aim to equip academics to leverage the potential of corporate data for research purposes and to help managers to leverage research results for their business. This paper argues that both practitioners and academics have a lot to gain from collaborating by exchanging corporate data for scientific approaches and insights. However, the gap between different realities and priorities needs to be bridged when doing so. The paper first identifies data realities and priorities and then develops recommendations on how to best collaborate given these differences. This research has the potential to contribute to managerial practice by informing academics on how to better collaborate with the managerial world and thereby facilitate collaboration and the dissemination of academic research for the benefit of both parties. Whereas the previous literature has primarily examined practitioner–academic collaboration in general, this study is the first to focus specifically on the aspects related to sharing corporate data and to elaborate on academic and corporate objectives with regard to data and insights.

#3. Villarroel Ordenes, F. and Zhang, S. (2019), “From words to pixels: text and image mining methods for service research”

The purpose of this paper is to describe and position the state-of-the-art of text and image mining methods in business research. By providing a detailed conceptual and technical review of both methods, it aims to increase their utilization in service research. On a first stage, the authors review business literature in marketing, operations and management concerning the use of text and image mining methods. On a second stage, the authors identify and analyze empirical papers that used text and image mining methods in services journals and premier business. Finally, avenues for further research in services are provided. The manuscript identifies seven text mining methods and describes their approaches, processes, techniques and algorithms, involved in their implementation. Four of these methods are positioned similarly for image mining. There are 39 papers using text mining in service research, with a focus on measuring consumer sentiment, experiences, and service quality. Due to the nonexistent use of image mining service journals, the authors review their application in marketing and management, and suggest ideas for further research in services. This manuscript focuses on the different methods and their implementation in service research, but it does not offer a complete review of business literature using text and image mining methods. The results have a number of implications for the discipline that are presented and discussed. The authors provide research directions using text and image mining methods in service priority areas such as artificial intelligence, frontline employees, transformative consumer research and customer experience. The manuscript provides an introduction to text and image mining methods to service researchers and practitioners interested in the analysis of unstructured data. This paper provides several suggestions concerning the use of new sources of data (e.g. customer reviews, social media images, employee reviews and emails), measurement of new constructs (beyond sentiment and valence) and the use of more recent methods (e.g. deep learning).

#4. Benedettini, O. and Neely, A. (2019), “Service providers and firm performance: investigating the non-linear effect of dependence”

Servitized manufacturers can leverage close relationships with external providers of product-related services to mobilize value creation and improve the responsiveness of their offerings to customer needs. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the economic link between the relational embeddedness of external service providers, as arising from the key dimension of dependence, and firm performance. The study evaluates financial statement data pertaining to 190 dyadic relationships of servitized manufacturers with service providers operating in downstream channels and accounting for more than 10 per cent of their revenue. The results indicate that service providers’ dependence has an inverted U-shaped relationship with manufacturers’ return-on-assets (ROA), via non-linear effects on return-on-sales and asset turnover. The results therefore suggest that the observed U-shaped relationship for ROA is driven by diminishing returns of dependence in terms of both differentiation ability and operational efficiency. Future research could examine other dimensions of embeddedness, as well as contingency factors that may influence the embeddedness–performance relationship. The study conclusions suggest that managers of servitized firms should foster the embeddedness of external service providers, but they should also be careful to maintain an adequate level of dependence to maximize benefits and minimize liabilities. The study adds to the limited research delving into inter-firm relationships between servitized manufacturers and external service providers. It empirically demonstrates the economic effects of service providers’ dependence-based embeddedness, challenging the general assumption about a monotonic positive effect of relational embeddedness.

#5. Buhalis, D., Harwood, T., Bogicevic, V., Viglia, G., Beldona, S. and Hofacker, C. (2019), “Technological disruptions in services: lessons from tourism and hospitality”

Technological disruptions such as the Internet of Things and autonomous devices, enhanced analytical capabilities (artificial intelligence) and rich media (virtual and augmented reality) are creating smart environments that are transforming industry structures, processes and practices. The purpose of this paper is to explore critical technological advancements using a value co-creation lens to provide insights into service innovations that impact ecosystems. The paper provides examples from tourism and hospitality industries as an information dependent service management context. The research synthesizes prevailing theories of co-creation, service ecosystems, networks and technology disruption with emerging technological developments. Findings highlight the need for research into service innovations in the tourism and hospitality sector at both macro-market and micro-firm levels, emanating from the rapid and radical nature of technological advancements. Specifically, the paper identifies three areas of likely future disruption in service experiences that may benefit from immediate attention: extra-sensory experiences, hyper-personalized experiences and beyond-automation experiences. Tourism and hospitality services prevail under varying levels of infrastructure, organization and cultural constraints. This paper provides an overview of potential disruptions and developments and does not delve into individual destination types and settings. This will require future work that conceptualizes and examines how stakeholders may adapt within specific contexts. Technological disruptions impact all facets of life. A comprehensive picture of developments here provides policymakers with nuanced perspectives to better prepare for impending change. Guest experiences in tourism and hospitality by definition take place in hostile environments that are outside the safety and familiarity of one’s own surroundings. The emergence of smart environments will redefine how customers navigate their experiences. At a conceptual level, this requires a complete rethink of how stakeholders should leverage technologies, engage and reengineer services to remain competitive. The paper illustrates how technology disrupts industry structures and stimulates value co-creation at the micro and macro-societal level.

#6. Aksoy, L., Alkire (née Nasr), L., Choi, S., Kim, P. and Zhang, L. (2019), “Social innovation in service: a conceptual framework and research agenda”

The purpose of this paper is to provide a framework for guiding social innovation in service (SIS), defined as the creation of novel, scalable and sustainable market based service offerings that solve systemic societal problems. This research provides a review and synthesis of transdisciplinary literatures to establish a basis for the conceptual framework proposed for SIS. It is argued that the primary unit of an SIS is the service firm and that there are micro-, meso-, and macro-level actors and enablers in the ecosystem that can help bring about SIS. Examples from the hospitality and tourism industry are used to demonstrate key points. Benefits of an SIS to companies include growth through new markets and innovative value offerings, sustainable supply chains in production, building consumer value and trust in the company/brand, attracting and retaining talent and being proactive in including social and environmental measures of success in customer metrics and company financial reporting. This paper contributes to the social innovation and service literature by: offering a new, scientifically supported view of an SIS; providing managers with a framework to guide social innovation within their service firm and for the benefit of their company and its stakeholders; and directing service scholars to research issues necessary to advance SIS.

Outstanding Reviewers:

1)  Stefano Bromuri, Open University, The Netherlands.
2)  Tobias Kraemer, University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany.