2nd Science Service Forum - 2008

Overwhelming response for Second Service Science Forum

The Second Service Science Forum, held recently on March 11, 2008, received overwhelming response from participants, many of whom are keen to further explore how service organisations can engage with academia to advance service knowledge.

Hosted by Fidelity International at their office on London’s Cannon Street, the Forum was attended by 36 delegates from a diverse range of service industries including telecommunications, defence, finance, and engineering. Organisations represented at the forum include BAE Systems, Bourton Group, Dynamyx, Fidelity International, Fujitsu, IBM, Reuters, Rolls Royce, Selex Galileo, Virgin Media, Vodafone, and the Ministry of Defence.

The Service Science Forum brings together practitioners from UK organisations interested to understand and grow their service business, and address the challenges a service orientation might bring. It also aims to encourage dialogue between representatives of University of Exeter’s School of Business and Economics and professionals from the service industry to develop an agenda for the provision of education in Service Science at Exeter.

Presentation and Breakout Session

The Second Service Science Forum meeting opened with Professor Irene Ng’s presentation on “Understanding True Service Capability: Service Science as a Driver of Value Innovation & Profitability.”

This was followed by a break-out session moderated by Professor Ng, Professor Roger Maull and Dr Andi Smart. Participants formed six smaller groups to discuss learning about service capability across sectors, using the major points summed up in Professor Ng’s presentation such as state dependency of services, separation of purchase and consumption and the co-creation of value. The delegates found this session useful in examining their own organisations’ service capability and amongst the challenges faced were:

  • multiple customers/stakeholders in services
  • state dependency of services creating greater uncertainty and risks
  • behavioural issues are more prevalent in services
  • design issues often do not incorporate people and processes
  • integrated service is important, particularly with equipment (goods and services)
  • delayed realisation of value in services due to a long service ‘lifetime’
  • insufficient measurements and techniques in service
  • expectations/customer competency is paramount in the co-creation of value

At the meeting, the curriculum for SOBE’s new Masters of Science in Service Science and Management was also presented to the delegates for discussion. This is a follow-up to the inaugural Service Science Forum meeting held in Sept 2007, which addressed the challenge of designing appropriate Service Science curricula that would produce graduates with a 360° knowledge of the service industry, and with the key skill-sets and disciplines preferred by employers.

The Future of the Service Science Forum

The meeting also saw a debate on the future of the Service Science Forum, during which the following issues were raised:

The need for a common language

Given that the field of service encompasses such a diverse spectrum of industries, delegates discussed the need for a common language in services, and for efforts to test that language and seek more commonalities between service industries. This, they felt, would make a huge difference in pushing service knowledge further.

The role of business practitioners in the classroom

Delegates felt that the vast array of experiences of the Forum participants – many of whom hold senior positions in service organisations – should be tapped to bring value to students in the classroom, through initiatives such as direct-focused workshops. This ties in well with the four business engagement modules featured in SOBE’s new Masters of Science in Service Science and Management, which seeks business sector participation in the form of seminars, student internship opportunities, consulting practicum projects, and bursaries/sponsorships.

Challenging the Service Science Masters curriculum

The Forum also could serve as a platform to challenge the new Masters of Science in Service Science and Management curriculum to ensure that it is relevant, useful and of a high standard.

Forum’s role in developing real case studies to help businesses

Practitioners at the Forum called for the development of real-life case studies with tangible end results, as a method of disseminating service knowledge uncovered by academic research. This, they said, would greatly aid businesses in their efforts to improve their service practices.

It was discussed that real-life case studies could be used:

  • to illustrate a model or an exploratory case study, and to fix the model as it develops;
  • as an example of underlying dynamics;
  • as a way to educate and help practitioners think about service practice; and
  • to discipline academics to think across sectors and to avoid the use of over-contextualised language.

As there is a strong push for industry to work with academia on research, the Forum could also be used as an avenue to pose research questions.

Voice of the customer

Delegates felt that it was important for Service Science to maintain the customer’s view; to have customer representation. Therefore, the term ‘customer-focused’ should be in the narrative, and an outside-in approach needs to be taken.

Knowledge dissemination

Participants also discussed methods of disseminating service knowledge derived from academic research. To this end, a blog is proposed to be set up for the Forum, as well as the development of white papers.

In addition, the Forum needs to specify its terms of reference and its deliverables. It needs to find a way to fund itself, and to be specific in terms of its membership, ie who should be its members, to enable the Forum to engage at its preferred level. It also needs to further define the principles of Service Science from an integration/interdisciplinary level.

The Service Science Forum is held twice a year, with the next meeting scheduled for September 2008. Plans are afoot to launch a Service Science Forum list and blog, to enable members of the Forum to be regularly updated on Forum activities and the latest in service knowledge.

View the proceedings of the previous forum:

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