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Unraveling customer experiences in a new servicescape: an ethnographic schema elicitation technique (ESET)

Susan Stead (Institute for Technology and Innovation Management, TIME Research Area, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany)
Gaby Odekerken-Schröder (Marketing and Supply Chain Management, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands)
Dominik Mahr (Marketing and Supply Chain Management, Service Science Factory, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Article publication date: 10 November 2020

Issue publication date: 10 June 2021




This article investigates the role of schemas in shaping customer experiences in new servicescapes, across the customer journey. The authors take a customer perspective that reveals how schematic information processing takes place at four pyramidal levels—event, touchpoint, encounter and concrete activities—that in turn lead to customer responses.


The study introduces a novel ethnographic schema elicitation technique (ESET), which enables unraveling schemas at the touchpoint level across the customer journey of a European grocery store that recently launched a new SST innovation. This tailored approach provides fine-grained insights into customer experiences at the moment they occur.


The conceptual framework unravels schematic information processing, as illustrated with an empirical study. The activation of different schemas and their modification is highlighted in rich qualitative data.

Research limitations/implications

Innovative service offerings require customers to adapt their existing behaviors. Understanding this highly individual process, which requires schema modification, could be furthered by longitudinal in-depth research.

Practical implications

By understanding schematic information processing, managers and policymakers can develop better strategies for activating sustainability or health-conscious schemas that guide customer behavior in positive directions.


By applying ESET to new self-service technology, the authors provide valuable insights for service managers and retailers. They show the particular need for prudence in changing schemas in ways that avoid negative cognitive, emotional or behavioral responses.



Stead, S., Odekerken-Schröder, G. and Mahr, D. (2021), "Unraveling customer experiences in a new servicescape: an ethnographic schema elicitation technique (ESET)", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 32 No. 4, pp. 612-641.



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