The Service Imperative*

Mary Jo Bitner, Arizona State University
Stephen W. Brown
, Arizona State University

This paper captures our thinking regarding what we call the “service imperative” or the compelling global need to focus energy around service research and service innovation.

The service imperative has resulted from the relentless growth of services in economies around the world, combined with a relative lack of investment in service innovation and research by companies, governments and academic institutions. We discuss the resulting need to build a stronger and deeper science of service on a foundation of research and innovation. We also present existing best practices of innovative organizations that focus on their customers and compete effectively through service. We conclude with practical guidance for companies, universities, and governments in support of the service imperative. It is our belief that widespread embracing of the service imperative can lead to improved prosperity for nations, new ways to compete for companies, and improved well being for individuals worldwide.

*This paper appeared in the 50th Anniversary Edition of Business Horizons, January-February 2008.