Guest article by Ingrid Hansson, CTF Karlstad
One of the longest-running conferences in service research is QUIS, Quality in Services. The QUIS symposium was established in 1988 by Bo Edvardsson and Evert Gummesson, both representing Karlstad University, and Stephen Brown from Arizona State University. In 2019 we organized the QUIS16 conference, held for the 7th time in Karlstad, Sweden (Next conference QUIS 17 will be in Hanoi, Vietnam)
The beginning of the QUIS symposium series
I have been the QUIS coordinator from the start in 1988 until the latest one in 2019. The first QUIS was by invitation only and we were very proud to arrange the conference in Karlstad. People from many places around the globe came to this 3.5 day event of presentations, discussion and social program. During day time we also had a special spouse program with guided tours in the city and surroundings. The QUIS conference was a great success and the conclusion was that we should continue to hold this conference every other year. Eberhard E Scheuing, St John’s University, New York, was next in line to host QUIS 2, and so it went on for several years to come until we agreed to arrange the conference in different places.
An international network
It was cool to be able to say early on that the QUIS conference was held in Karlstad and in New York, which gave positive attention here at home and increased the interest in service research. Since the 2000’s QUIS has been at various locations in the world. The conference has meant a lot, not at least in the social dimension, and put Karlstad on the map early on. I am convinced that an important success factor for CTF, Service Research Center was to invest in international networks and collaborations right from the start. Here, Bo Edvardsson, Founder of CTF has been a pioneer and has always encouraged our PhD students and researchers to participate in international conferences to present their research and meet with other researchers.
Today, CTF is probably, to the number, the largest service research center, with about 80 active researchers and PhD students. Many guest researchers have spent time at CTF and have enjoyed our environment. An easy and nice way to get to know everyone is to join our “Fika breaks”. We meet and have coffee together at specific times during the day and everyone is welcome. We talk about everything under the sun and have a nice time together. Information is exchanged and new thoughts and ideas are born. Swedish “Fika” is a part of everyday life but is experienced as something special and positive by our foreign guests.
Small things make a big difference
Throughout the years I have organized and managed many conferences, anniversaries and other events. My experience is that small things make a big difference, it always pays to do the little extra. Among all conferences I have organized QUIS has meant a lot and here are some fun memories that I would like to share.
The best part is all the wonderful people around the world that I have had the privilege of meeting and getting to know. To mention just a few, Stephen Brown and Mary Jo Bitner who have been QUIS co-chairs over the years, and Parsu Parasuraman who has participated in every QUIS conference. In addition, Parsu has promised to be an inaugural speaker when I shall open a CTF branch in Italy, such as a vineyard with a red Ferrari. We happily remind each other of this every time we meet. Future or fantasy, we will see.
Memories from QUIS
At one of the first QUIS conferences, we picked up the participants at the airport and drove them to the hotels. Practicing service quality. However, we never received a clear message from one of the speakers about what time he would arrive. Later it turned out that he had a flight certificate and arrived with his own small airplane.
Another time, we were encouraged to invite a certain professor from Japan to speak at a conference in the 1990s. He spoke fast and engaged, but his English was incomprehensible and no one really understood what he was talking about.
It was Midsummer Eve in Sweden when we had the QUIS15 Gala Dinner in Shanghai. I took the opportunity to share this on stage and invited the Swedish participants to take part in a special midsummer dance called “the little frogs” (usually danced with the children). I sang the song and the other Swedes jumped around the room like frogs and made all the strange moves that are a part of the dance. There were many smiles and a lot of filming when this took place.
For another banquet dinner in Karlstad, as a surprise, I hired the rockabilly band Topcats, who really put on a show and the participants got up on the dance floor for the rest of the evening. Since that time there has been a lot of dancing at the events.
What’s best with conferences
Conferences are not only a forum to present new ideas, but also a way to come together to make progress on research, share ideas, and find new collaboration opportunities. On top of this you can also have a lot of fun. Keep up the good spirit in this great community!
I hope we meet in “real life” again, when these strange times have passed, and I would be happy to come visit some conferences in the future.
Former Coordinator, CTF – Service Research Center, Karlstad University, Sweden