Call for papers for a Special Issue of Journal of Business Research (JBR).

Strength-Based Approaches to Customer Vulnerability: Implications for Service Research and Practice

Guest Editors: Russell-Bennett R, Kabadayi S & Alkire L.

Deadline: 30 November 2024

Since 2005 (Baker et al., 2005), customer vulnerability has been receiving increasing attention across business disciplines (e.g., Basu et al., 2023; Hill and Sharma, 2020; Khare and Jain 2022; Raciti et al., 2022) as business scholars recognize the importance of designing and delivering services for all customers. Within the service discipline, there has been an expansion of focus from profit to include people and planet with investigations into vulnerability-related topics ranging from the digital divide (see Fisk et al., 2023), refugees (see Nasr and Fisk, 2019; Boenigk et al., 2021), homelessness (Russell-Bennett et al., 2023) and educationally disadvantaged students (see Raciti et al., 2022).

Within this stream of customer vulnerability research, the strength-based approach has gained recognition as a contemporary lens to study vulnerability experiences. The strength-based approach defines the experience of vulnerability as individuals’ subjective perceptions of susceptibility which are part of the human condition, experienced over time, prompt introspection, and give rise to greater strength and resilience (Raciti et al., 2022). The strength-based approach is a practice framework well established in the social science disciplines of social work, disability, education, and psychology as a practice-based approach (Mollard et al., 2020, Pulla 2017, Saleeby 1996). In these disciplines, the strength-based approach critiques pathologizing people and using labels such as powerless or incapable. Instead, these human-centric disciplines advocate for identifying the strengths in the service ecosystem (individuals, communities, and organizations) that can be leveraged or developed to address experiences of vulnerability.

The strength-based approach recognizes that circumstances of vulnerability will vary over time and place and require different combinations of strengths of different actors. For instance, a temporary experience of vulnerability such as pregnancy might involve leveraging the strengths of the mother, the family and employer whereas an enduring experience of vulnerability such as chronic illness might involve developing strengths in the health system and an individual’s community. In this way, the strength-based approach goes beyond a sole focus on the individual to a focus on the context of support for the individual, the strengths of different actors in the service ecosystem are leveraged (Kabadayi, Livne-Tarandach and Pirson 2023). A strength-based approach is thus applied in different ways based on the capabilities of the service ecosystem (and actors) that surround the individual/family/group who are experiencing vulnerability.

It is important to note that the strength-based approach does not deny the very real problems that exist or negative triggers of vulnerability such as trauma or injury, nor does the strength-based approach assume that all that is needed is the capabilities of individuals (Russell-Bennett et al., 2023). Rather the strength-based approach focuses on what is possible through the collective effort of the service ecosystem instead of what is missing or abnormal (Saleeby, 1996, Raciti et al., 2022). In this special issue, we follow the strength-based approach outlined by Raciti et al. (2022) that conceptualizes customer vulnerability as a state (circumstance) not a trait (inherent individual characteristic), subjective, experienced by all humans and where the experience of vulnerability is different to the experience of hardship. Importantly, the strength-based approach recognizes that there are strengths in individuals, families, and communities (Saleeby 1996) that can be leveraged or developed for improvement and mitigation of the experience of vulnerability.

Given the novelty of the strength-based approach to customer vulnerability in service research, this special issue has a wide scope. We expect this special issue to receive manuscripts not only from service scholars, but also from colleagues in other business or social science disciplines that have a focus on customer vulnerability. We are seeking a multidisciplinary collection of papers and will prioritize papers that draw on literature from outside of business research. In particular, we are seeking deep conceptual work as well as empirical evidence rather than bibliometric or literature review articles. The strength-based approach seeks to consider the environmental factors affecting individuals, so articles should consider the role of the service ecosystem and contextual factors.

Potential research themes and topics in this special issue could include, not limited to, the following:
– Conceptualization of the strength-based approach to customer vulnerability: what are the elements or dimensions?
– Empirical evidence of the effectiveness of the strength-based approach (compared to other approaches) in addressing vulnerabilities: what impact does the strength-based approach to customer vulnerability have socially or environmentally?
– Application of the strength-based approach to customer vulnerability for Transformative Service Initiatives (TSIs): How can the strength-based approach to customer vulnerability be designed and delivered?
– Services ecosystems and the strength-based approach to customer vulnerability: How can a strength-based approach address tensions and fracture points in a service ecosystem?
– Cross-cultural determinants of the strength-based approach to customer vulnerability: Does culture (or cultural dimensions) impact the adoption of a strength-based approach to vulnerabilities?
– Boundary conditions for the strength-based approach to customer vulnerability: What are the contextual constraints on implementing a strength-based approach, and how might they be addressed?
– Organizational and human enablers and barriers to strength-based approach to vulnerabilities: What are the capabilities and strengths of different actors in the service ecosystem for specific contexts, such as cognitive impairment, refugees, low-income earners or financial stress?
– Methodological approaches to the strength-based approach to vulnerabilities: How can strength-based approach strategies be measured or evaluated?
– Practices of the strength-based approach to customer vulnerability: What does a strength-based approach look like in practice for different service organizations (e.g., government, non-profit, commercial) in different service contexts (e.g., education, health, transport, tourism, hospitality, finance, utilities)?
– Role of services constructs in the strength-based approach to customer vulnerability: What service constructs/concepts are key antecedents, outcomes, moderators, or mediators of a strength-based approach to customer vulnerability?
– Critical marketing and strength-based approach to customer vulnerability: How might service scholars take a critical approach to strength-based approach to customer vulnerability?
– Role of strength-based approach in extending the TSR work: How can strength-based approach contribute to well-being research?
– How might the strength-based approach be applied to achieve service outcomes such as customer experience, value, engagement and loyalty?
– What is the role of service technology in adopting strength-based approach to customer vulnerability in services?
– How can a strength-based approach be adopted when addressing sustainability concerns?
– What can service researchers learn from other societal-focused business disciplines that use the strength-based approach i.e. TCR or social marketing?
– What can service researchers learn from other societal-focused social science disciplines that use the strength-based approach such as social work, education, psychology, or justice?
– How might service marketing communications adopt a strength-based approach (e.g., social media, advertising, public relations, service language)?

Useful resources
Explanation of a strength-based approach in plain English. A useful guide to understanding a a strength-based approach is a report by Hammond and Zimmerman 2010. This guide outlines 9 principles and a language glossary.
Interventions using a strengths-based approach. The UK Social Care Institute for Excellence has a number of resources that demonstrate how the strengths-based approach work in different settings.
Organization case studies applying a strengths-based approach to customer vulnerability. A customer vulnerability symposium was hosted in Australia in 2023 with the theme of a strengths-based approach. There were speakers from organizations who adopt a strengths-based approach listed in the speaker program.
Toolkit of psychological interventions. Positive Psychology has a website with a free toolkit on using strengths-based approaches in psychological interventions. Download it here

Submission portal opens: October 1, 2024
Paper submission deadline: November 30, 2024

Guest Editors:
Rebekah Russell-Bennett, Professor, University of Canberra, Bruce, Australia
Sertan Kabadayi, Professor, Fordham University, Bronx, New York, USA
Linda Alkire, Associate Professor, Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas, USA

Full call here.
Full presentation here:

Comments

comments