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Articulating the service concept in professional service firms

Ahmad Beltagui (Department of Operations and Information Management, Aston Business School, Birmingham, UK) (Business School, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK)
Kjartan Sigurdsson (Center for Research on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Reykjavik University, Reykjavik, Iceland)
Marina Candi (Center for Research on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Reykjavik University, Reykjavik, Iceland)
Johann C.K.H. Riedel (Division of Operations Management and Information Systems, Nottingham University Business School, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK)

Journal of Service Management

ISSN: 1757-5818

Article publication date: 19 June 2017




The purpose of this paper is to propose a solution to the challenges of professional service firms (PSF), which are referred to as cat herding, opaque quality and lack of process standardization. These result from misalignment in the mental pictures that managers, employees and customers have of the service. The study demonstrates how the process of articulating a shared service concept reduces these challenges.


A narrative methodology is used to analyze the perspectives of old management, new management and employees during organizational change in a PSF – a website design company growing to offer full-service branding. Group narratives are constructed using longitudinal data gathered through interviews and fieldwork, in order to compare the misaligned mental pictures and show the benefits of articulating the service concept.


Professional employees view growth and change as threats to their culture and practice, particularly when new management seeks to standardize processes. These threats are revealed to stem from misinterpretations caused by miscommunication of intentions and lack of participation in decision making. Articulating a shared service concept helps to align understanding and return the firm to equilibrium.

Research limitations/implications

The narrative methodology helps unpack conflicting perspectives, but is open to claims of subjectivity and misrepresentation. To ensure fairness and trustworthiness, informants were invited to review and approve the narratives.


The study contributes propositions related to the value of articulating a shared service concept as a means of minimizing the challenges of PSFs.



Part of the funding for this work has been provided from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under Grant Agreements Nos 251383 and 324448. The authors would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their support throughout the review process.


Beltagui, A., Sigurdsson, K., Candi, M. and Riedel, J.C.K.H. (2017), "Articulating the service concept in professional service firms", Journal of Service Management, Vol. 28 No. 3, pp. 593-616.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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