Journal of Operations Management 20

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Journal of Operations Management 20 (2002) 121–134
The service concept: the missing link in service design research? Susan Meyer Goldstein
a
,

, Robert Johnston
b
, JoAnn Duffy
c
, Jay Rao
d
a
Department of Operations and Management Science, University of Minnesota, 321 19th Avenue S, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA b
Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK c
Gibson D. Lewis Center for Business and Economic Development, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX 77341-2056, USA d
Management Division, Babson College, Babson Park, MA 02457, USA Abstract
The service concept plays a key role in service design and development. But while the term is used frequently in the service design and new service development literature, surprisingly little has been written about the service concept itself and its im- portant role in service design and development. The service concept defines the how

and the
what
of service design, and helps
mediate between customer needs and an organization’s strategic intent. We define the service concept and describe how it can be used to enhance a variety of service design processes. As illustrations here, we apply the service concept to service design plan- ning and service recovery design processes. Employing the service concept as an important driver of service design decisions raises a number of interesting questions for research which are discussed here. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. Keywords:

Service concept; Service design planning; Service recovery design 1. Introduction
A service organization can only deliver a ser-
vice after integrating (or outsourcing) investments in
numerous assets, processes, people, and materials.
Much like manufacturing a product composed of hun-
dreds or thousands of components, services similarly
consist of hundreds or thousands of components.
However, unlike a product, service components are of-
ten not physical entities, but rather are a combination
of processes, people skills, and materials that must be
appropriately integrated to result in the ‘planned’ or
‘designed’ service.
In designing a new service or redesigning an
existing service, managers and designers must make
decisions about each component of the service, from

Corresponding author. Tel.:
+
1-612-626-0271;
fax:
+
1-612-624-8804.
E-mail address:
smeyer@csom.umn.edu (S.M. Goldstein).
major decisions like facility location to seemingly
minor decisions like napkin color. For even a rela-
tively simple service, numerous decisions are made in
taking a new or redesigned service from the idea stage
through the design phases to a deliverable service.
And in many cases, these processes are ongoing as
service organizations continue to invest in their phys-
ical assets and the training of their workforce, as well
as make changes and improvements in front room
service encounter processes and back room service
support processes. The large number and wide variety
of decisions required to design and deliver a service
are made at several levels in the organization—from
the strategic level to the operational and service en-
counter levels. A major challenge for service orga-
nizations is ensuring that decisions at each of these
levels are made consistently, focused on delivering
the correct service to targeted customers.
From the service organization’s perspective, design-
ing a service means defining an appropriate mix of
0272-6963/02/$ – see front matter © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved. PII:
S0272-6963(01)00090-0
122
S.M. Goldstein et al. / Journal of Operations Management 20 (2002) 121–134 physical and non-physical components. But do cus-
tomers define a service as a sum of components? Or
do customers define a service as a singular outcome
they are seeking when they obtain or purchase the ser-
vice? Similarly, how do service providers (i.e. service
employees) define the service they...
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