Services as Destinations

I’ve added a new paper to my service design research collection. It’s called “Experience, Service Operations Strategy, and Services as Destinations” from the Journal of Production and Operations Management. The paper is incredibly relevant for the service design community and deserves a place in our canon.

Authors Chris Voss, Aleda Roth and Richard Chase introduce the idea of services as destinations and place them at the apex of a hierarchy of experiential service offerings. They analyze 28 case studies for examples of experience and identify four types of businesses along the spectrum, ranging from those that use experience as an enhancement for an existing service to those that embrace experience as a core offering.

They propose that the depth of experience must be supported by a corresponding level of integration within an organization, with the operational demands rising as a function of the complexity of the experience offered. Higher levels of experience offer greater financial returns, assuming the organizational infrastructure to maintain them. The authors also explore the role of the chief experience officer (CXO) and the organizational risks and rewards associated with a centralized authority.

But what makes this a must-read paper is the basic taxonomy identifying four components of service operation:

  • Stageware – Bricks and mortar. The facilities layout, process technology and flows.
  • Orgware – Management systems to organize and train people for experience and create an environment and culture for engaging customers.
  • Customerware – Specific touchpoints where customers interact with the delivery system service.
  • Linkware – Integration systems. The communication mechanisms that filter information across the enterprise and down to all levels.

Too often as service designers we focus on either the touchpoints or the servicescape; the sexy front-stage components of the customer experience. But what goes on inside the company is just as important for us to consider. Voss, Chase and Roth provide a simple frame for that discussion.

The list of references at the end is a gold mine for anyone interested in exploring the literature on experience. I’m amazed that we don’t talk about these sources more often. Journals like Decision Sciences and Advances in Consumer Research or the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, the Journal of Cyberpsychology and Behavior and the Journal on Multivariate Behavioral Research. I’ve dug up a dozen new papers.

Update: The authors also have a presentation summarizing their research [PDF 2.9MB] but it doesn’t stand on its own very well. I’d recommend checking out the full paper.


  1. shelley evenson

    jeff–thanks for this! it is indeed a great taxonomy




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