Engaging customers in service creation: a theater perspective

Jacqueline A. Williams (North Carolina A&T State University, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA)
Helen H. Anderson (Tucson, Arizona, USA)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Publication date: 1 January 2005



A theater/drama perspective is used to gain insights into the participatory nature of service creation and to assess the relative importance of service elements across service scenarios.


Drama production principles are applied to situations where customers co‐create the service offering. Using a theater arts model, elements in service settings can be delineated into director, lead actor, set designer, scriptwriter, supporting cast member, and/or traditional audience roles. To understand the relative importance of the service provider, the customer, and other service encounter elements, three variations of a service setting (educational services) in which the consumer's participatory role moves from passive to proactive are compared.


As the service context became more participatory‐based, service provider roles significantly decreased in importance rankings while customer roles significantly increased, supporting the paper's hypotheses. The ranking of other service setting elements followed a similar pattern with greater importance being placed on elements as they became more central to the participatory experience.

Research limitations/implications

The model is tested in only one service setting and the procedure for assigning theater roles to a service setting needs further refinement.


By merging theories from theater and services literature, a means of assessing the relative importance of service components across service scenarios is illustrated. Principles in theater arts provide the tactical detail needed to fit service creation elements into analogous roles in a drama setting. The model provides insights on the importance of service creation elements when transitioning from a spectator‐based to a participatory‐based service environment.



Williams, J.A. and Anderson, H.H. (2005), "Engaging customers in service creation: a theater perspective", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 13-23. https://doi.org/10.1108/08876040510579352

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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