More Service Design Research

A while back I created an online literature review focused on service design research. Starting with a collection of reading lists I went back about thirty years to compile articles from marketing, retail and design journals and the Harvard Business Review. Finally I cross-referenced everything by topic, case study, author and journal. For me it’s been a good way to get a handle on the evolution of service design thinking.

Trouble is, people keep writing papers. And if recent history is any guide, the trend seems to be accelerating.

I’ve added a handful of papers to my collection since it launched in 2007, but that barely scratches the surface. There were a few hidden gems that I missed in my first pass and now that I know where to look it seems like there are interesting developments springing up all over the place.

Two of the newest additions to my service design research collection are by Frances X. Frei, associate professor of business administration in the Technology and Operations Management unit at Harvard Business School in Boston.

In “Breaking the Trade-Off Between Efficiency and Service” (HBR 2006) professor Frei covers five types of variability introduced by the presence of customers as co-producers of a service and explores ways to address that variability.

“The Four Things a Service Business Must Get Right” (HBR 2008) is a more general overview of service businesses. Frei’s analysis goes beyond the service offering to examine funding mechanisms and employee and customer management. Favorite quote: “If your business requires heroism of your employees to keep customers happy, then you have bad service by design.”

Both articles are from the Harvard Business Review. It’s the source for roughly half the papers in my collection. For better or worse they’ve been writing about the importance of services for longer than just about anyone.

There are still stacks of journals waiting in the wings. I’ll try to update the collection a little more frequently from now on as I find papers that are worth adding.

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