Notes from the search for deep indicators in services

James L. Heskett (Harvard Business School, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Publication date: 10 June 2014



The purpose of this paper is to provide a retrospective look at the search for deep indicators that explain service performance as well as an illustrative example of this kind of work.


The work described involved constructing a complex model, using it to predict performance, and then exploring data that helped disclose even deeper indicators. Data were collected in operating units of a single organization to ensure comparability.


The primary challenges in this type of work are the availability of data and data comparability, not the availability of hypotheses or analytic techniques. Also, trust was found to be a deep indicator of performance not often identified in service management research.

Research limitations/implications

The example study described requires replication within the organization studied, more sophisticated analysis, and application across service businesses. It contains numerous hypotheses requiring further validation.


The research employs a predictive model to elicit management cooperation in the search for even deeper indicators. The paper calls for care but less caution if research in service management is to be advanced more rapidly and made more relevant for practitioners.



L. Heskett, J. (2014), "Notes from the search for deep indicators in services", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 298-309.

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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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