Understanding Service Systems and Operations: a Closer Look at the Minority Reports

James C. Spohrer, IBM
*Haluk Demirkan, Arizona State University

While there is a rapid growth in the number of researchers and practitioners joining the service science community to better understand services, service operations and service innovation, this community has not yet reached consensus on precise answers to two fundamental questions: “What is service?” and “Where is the science (in service science)?” After performing an extensive review, this paper examines possible answers to these two fundamental questions from the traditional economist perspective (intangible product, service sector, prices and productivity), a splinter marketing perspective (service-dominant-logic and value-cocreation) and a splinter systems perspective, closer to ecology (diversity, sustainability and quality of life). Then, it proposes the Abstract-Entity-Interaction-Outcome-Universals (AEIOU) theory to discuss the science of service systems as a new way to describe the understanding and innovation of service- producing entities instead of following traditional “bricks-and-mortar product development processes and platforms,” and seeks a formal and universal framework in which to understand entity, interaction, and outcome patterns of service systems. The AEIOU theory defines service separation as customers’ absence from service production, which denotes the spatial separation between service production and consumption. Service separation increases customers’ perceptions of not only access and benefit conveniences but also performance and psychological risks. Specifically, relative to experience services, for credence services, the effects of separation on service convenience are mitigated, and the effects on perceived risk are magnified.

* Corresponding Author

Spohrer, J. C. and Demirkan, H., “Understanding Service Systems and Operations: A Closer Look at the Minority Reports,” Working paper, Arizona State University, 2011.