Guest article by Riley Krotz, finalist of the 2022 SERVSIG Best Dissertation Award.

The traditional service environment is swiftly changing, and this fundamental shift in landscape provides marketers with both great challenges and opportunities for great success. Some have attributed this key struggle to the inability of traditional service providers to evolve quickly enough to handle the drastically-changing services landscape. This fundamental change in services has been associated with increasing in-store technology and digital touchpoints which have changed how service and retail organizations communicate with customers along purchase journeys. One way service providers can stay competitive in this changing environment is the development of their frontline service practices, where the organizational frontlines are “the interactions and interfaces at the point of contact between an organization and its customers that promote, facilitate, or enable value creation and exchange” (Singh et al. 2017, p. 4).

Despite the wide-spread recognition that the organizational frontlines and frontline employees (FLEs) are a key source of a service organization’s competitive advantage, the frontline field is still nascent with many questions for both marketing academics and service practitioners left unanswered. The importance of FLEs to both firms and consumers – as well as a dearth of research to help marketing and service practitioners improve FLE performance – ultimately inspired my research focus and connected to me to wonderful colleagues across the global SERVSIG network.

The research conducted for my dissertation entitled “Organizational Frontline Marketing in a High-Tech World” (Co-Chairs: Stephanie M. Noble and Dhruv Grewal) explores frontline service practices, focusing the interactions and interfaces at the point of contact between a service organization and its customers that promote, facilitate, or enable value creation and exchange. Specifically, this research explores (1) whether providing FLEs with free food and other benefits increases customer responsiveness, and ultimately firm sales; (2) the effect of replacing human FLEs with non-human digital brand touch points; and (3) how digitization and social media affects frontline blood donations. Holistically, this dissertation explores the relationship between organizational frontline strategy decisions and technology on retail and service firm performance.

Working on important frontline research topics has shown that conducting a services-focused dissertation is a fruitful path for current (or potential!) Ph.D. students. Whether focusing on the organizational frontlines, the influence of technology on service interactions, refining the quality of life-saving healthcare services, or exploring the public policy implications of governmental service strategies, the study of services is an area where all interested academics can find a home. I would encourage those interested in the services field to contact me or anyone in the SERVSIG leadership team.

Riley T. Krotz, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Marketing
AACSRE Emerging Research Fellow
Texas Tech University

Singh, Brady, Arnold, & Brown (2017), “The Emergent Field of Organizational Frontlines,” Journal of Service Research, 20(1): 3-11.

Photo credit: Brian Lundquist.