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Mirror, mirror on the wall – how customers perceive their contribution to service provision

Sabine Fliess (Department of Service Management, University of Hagen, Hagen, Germany)
Stefan Dyck (Department of Service Management, University of Hagen, Hagen, Germany)
Mailin Schmelter (Department of Service Management, University of Hagen, Hagen, Germany)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Article publication date: 12 August 2014




The purpose of this paper is to investigate customer perceptions of their own contribution to service provision, in order to enhance our understanding of customer contribution and its dimensions.


In total, 27 in-depth interviews were conducted across nine service contexts. Qualitative data were then analyzed to identify the various dimensions of customer contribution.


First, the study contributes to the understanding of customer contribution in identifying physical, mental, and emotional dimensions. The physical and mental dimensions of customer contribution are represented by activities, while emotions comprise mood and emotional states. Second, relationships among the three dimensions were identified; in particular, physical and mental activities were found to influence customer emotions. Third, the findings reveal that customer understanding of their own contribution to service provision encompass the co-creative sphere of customer and provider, and extends to the customer-sphere before the service encounter.

Research limitations/implications

The qualitative study is limited in terms of generalizability, since the 27 interview cases were based on nine interviews each covering three service settings. Further research is needed to investigate how the dimensions of customer contribution are linked to different outcomes (e.g. service value, satisfaction, loyalty), thus providing a quantitative validation of our findings.

Practical implications

Understanding the customer contribution to service provision is pivotal for service design. Service managers need to reflect on how the different dimensions of contribution manifest in their existing or potential service offering, since physical and mental customer activities shape their emotions, which in turn impact on the service experience and value.


Little in-depth research has been conducted on the nature and dimensionality of customer contributions to service provision, particularly with regard to perceptions of their own contribution. Most previous empirical research on customer contribution is limited to a specific context and concerned with customer behaviors. Hence, this qualitative study examines customer contribution across different service context, focussing on customer perceptions in terms of physical, mental, and emotional contributions to service provision.



Fliess, S., Dyck, S. and Schmelter, M. (2014), "Mirror, mirror on the wall – how customers perceive their contribution to service provision", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 25 No. 4, pp. 433-469.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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