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Revealing business customers’ hidden value formation in service

Tore Strandvik (Department of Marketing, Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland)
Kristina Heinonen (Department of Marketing, Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland)
Sanna Vollmer (Department of Marketing, Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 25 September 2018

Issue publication date: 7 October 2019




This paper aims to identify how, in contrast to a provider-oriented stance where customer value is conceptualised as being controlled by the provider, customer value is formed for business customers beyond what is visible to the provider.


This paper builds on the primacy of the customer. Customer-dominant logic (CDL) is used as the conceptual underpinning, meaning that the customer, rather than the service provider or the service system, is at the centre. A case study was conducted with seven key users from three customer companies of an information and communications technology (ICT) provider of in-house services. The study used a micro-social level focus by capturing customers’ experiences of those activities where value in use is formed.


The findings indicate that value formation is not related only to direct service interactions and furthermore substantially takes place beyond a service provider’s visibility line. Hence, value formation is in large part hidden for the service provider because it is embedded in customers’ activities and experiences.

Research limitations/implications

Although the study is limited to one case concerning ICT services, these findings may apply to other service businesses, in particular to knowledge-intensive outsourcing businesses.

Practical implications

Understanding a customer’s value formation from the customer’s point of view is the key to service development for any business service provider.


Applying a CDL approach, the authors deepen the understanding of customer value formation as it emerges in customer activities. The study provides detailed insight into business customers’ value formation processes. The study’s findings challenge the current emphasis on interactions and co-creation and instead demonstrate the importance of understanding customer logics and contexts.



This paper forms part of a special section “Value innovation in practice: leveraging learning in distant contexts”, guest edited by Fredrik Nordin and Nishant Kumar.


Strandvik, T., Heinonen, K. and Vollmer, S. (2019), "Revealing business customers’ hidden value formation in service", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 34 No. 6, pp. 1145-1159.



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