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The service function as a holistic management concept

Christian Kowalkowski (Department of Management and Engineering, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 23 August 2011




This article aims to introduce the service function concept, as well as why and how it can be a useful concept for addressing service management challenges in industrial firms.


Two in‐depth case studies of global industrial firms enabled a thorough understanding of the roles of the service function entities and interdependencies between them.


Although the service organization is most likely the key entity, it is only one part of the service function; other organizational entities are to be seen as part‐time service functions.

Research limitations/implications

A finer‐grained conceptualization would enable a better understanding of the front‐ and back‐office entities involved in the service processes.

Practical implications

The concept can be useful when communicating the importance of services and the inter‐relatedness between the service organization and other parts of the firm, which generates a better internal understanding of the service processes. The alignment between service offering and organization can be elaborated by mapping where service development, sales, and production take place, what the ideal configuration would be, and the roles played by different parts of the service function.


The service function is a novel concept and is particularly relevant for industrial firms that offer services. It highlights the fact that it is erroneous to equate services with the activities of the service organization. Instead, a more holistic approach to the management of service offerings is needed.



Kowalkowski, C. (2011), "The service function as a holistic management concept", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 26 No. 7, pp. 484-492.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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