Multiple Perspectives on Service

Multiple perspectives on service from three authors – Maglio, Alter, and Manhaes:

Paul Maglio (UC Merced):
Just read Paul Maglio’s Metaphor piece:

Editorial Column—Metaphors of Service and the Framing of Service Science

Paul wrote:

There are many metaphors related to service. There is the “service encounter” (Bitner et al. 1990), the “moment of truth” (Carlzon 1987), and the “customer journey” (e.g., Tax et al. 2013), compromising the service is a journey metaphor. There is the “front-stage” and the “backstage” (Teboul 2006) and the “service performance” (Berry 1980), comprising the service is performance metaphor. There is the “service factory” (Chase et al. 1992) and the “service operation” (Chase 1978), comprising the service is production metaphor. There is the “cost disease of services” (Baumol and Bowen 1966), comprising the service is a disease metaphor. And there is the “service system” (Maglio et al. 2009) and the “service ecosystem” (Vargo and Akaka 2012) in which multiple entities or actors work to create value together (Vargo et al. 2008), comprising the service is value cocreation metaphor. This is an incomplete list, and individual articles may in fact rely on more than one metaphor. No single metaphor is right, and different metaphors for service may be consistent with many abstract concepts, through sometimes overlapping and contradictory metaphors. But let’s start here. I will discuss each of these metaphors briefly in turn.


Prof. Steve Alter (U San Francisco) :
Steve wrote some time ago:

Instead of searching for one definition of service that almost automatically focuses on some issues and almost automatically creates blinders related to other issues, the new approach is to mimic the main idea of Gareth Morgan’s book Images of Organization. 

Image #1:  Service as activities for the benefit of others
Image #2:  Service as outcomes or benefits for others
Image #3:  Service as a response to a request
Image #4:  Service as a provider-customer interaction
Image #5:  Service as a category distinct from products/services
Image #6:  Service as a direction for change
Image #7:  Service as the basis of economic exchange
Image #8:  Service as a role in a business ecosystem

As with Morgan’s images of organization, each image of service has its own potential value for thinking about service and service systems.

Whether or not this is the best possible set of images of service,T-shaped service scientists should be able to get their heads around something like this approach even though it may seem to defy an engineering, computer science mentality’s need to define concepts precisely.  Their acceptance or rejection of the whole approach might even be an indirect test of their propensity to toward T-shapedness.


Mauricio Manhaes (U Savannah):
Also, I was just reading this piece as well with multiple perspectives on service as well…

Mauricio Manhães created this piece which is worth re-reading:

WHAT – Service Design

Being in the realm of praxis and close to Innovation and to the concept of disequilibrium, service design should be able to answer questions that start with ‘what’ and point to originality and newness. Organisations with questions such as ‘What else can we do?’, should address them to service design discipline experts. These last ones would have to focus their research on new ways of exploring possibilities, of expanding the limits of what is possible. This is, indeed, a very rich and complex research endeavour that should aim to enable people to co-create preferred futures.

WHEN – Service Management

Although the ‘art’ of management is heavily based on tacit knowledge, its focus starts to move towards efficiency and equilibrium. Organisations that need to answer questions related to ‘when’ and timing would ask: ‘When should we start improving our service?’, ‘Is this the right moment to do it?’ or ‘What should we do NOW?’.  The discipline of service management should supply answers based on ‘the lived moment’ of the organisation, even indicating whether managers should pursue solutions created by other disciplines. Knowing ‘what to do and when’ would be the major responsibility of the service management discipline and the focus of its research efforts.

HOW – Service Engineering

Entering the other half of the continuum, the first discipline is service engineering, with its proximity to the concepts of ‘maintenance’ and ‘equilibrium’. With a stronger focus on efficiency, this discipline should be expected to answer questions like ‘How can it be done better?’ and ‘How can we improve the efficiency of this service?’ Its research focus would be on organising best practices and procedures, building models and frameworks that can be repeated by organisations with the best results possible. Service engineering does not need to understand why something works, as long as it works repeatedly.

WHY – Service Science

Service science, predictably, should answer the question of ‘why’. To be able to improve the other disciplines, and to push the envelope of their research, at some point it will be necessary to know ‘Why did that workshop work?’, ‘Why did that model create that result?’, ‘Why was that the best time for doing that?’, etc. Research in this discipline should be focused on understanding the relation between elements, structures and mechanisms, and why particular combinations create specific results. This is fundamental information to report back to the other disciplines.

– See more at:

Service as Knowledge – increasing the potential to act – see

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