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Middle-range theorizing on logistics customer service

Daniel A. Pellathy (Seidman College of Business, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA)
Joonhwan In (College of Business Administration, California State University, Long Beach, California, USA)
Diane A. Mollenkopf (Haslam College of Business, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA)
Theodore P. Stank (Haslam College of Business, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA)

International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management

ISSN: 0960-0035

Publication date: 15 February 2018

Issue publication date: 22 February 2018



The purpose of this paper is to illustrate how a systematic application of middle-range theorizing, which pays particular attention to contexts and mechanisms, can be used to extend current knowledge on logistics customer service (LCS) in a number of critical areas.


The paper applies Stank et al.’s (2017) framework for middle-ranging theorizing in logistics to develop a research framework and agenda that can guide future LCS research. Results are generated through a review of the LCS literature and an application of the main concepts of middle-range theorizing.


The paper outlines opportunities for middle-range research that would extend LCS knowledge in the areas of human and behavioral factors, time-based competition, supply chain complexity, and digitization and technological innovation.

Research limitations/implications

Describing the main characteristics of middle-range theorizing and how middle-range theorizing can be fruitfully applied to LCS research should help to stimulate new knowledge creation in this important area of supply chain logistics management.

Practical implications

By focusing on why and when questions, middle-range theorizing engages with the practical realities of LCS that interest managers and students. Middle-range theorizing moves researchers toward developing a detailed understanding of what actually has to change in order for desired LCS-related outcomes to occur and the contextual factors likely impacting the change process. The paper should, therefore, allow managers to better translate LCS theory into action.


Middle-range theorizing remains new to the supply chain logistics field. The application of middle-range theorizing to LCS research, and logistics research more generally, demands new perspectives on established relationships with the potential to drive original research in areas most relevant to managers.



Pellathy, D.A., In, J., Mollenkopf, D.A. and Stank, T.P. (2018), "Middle-range theorizing on logistics customer service", International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 48 No. 1, pp. 2-18.



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