To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Commentary: future directions of the service discipline

Ruth N. Bolton (Department of Marketing, Arizona State University – Tempe Campus, Tempe, Arizona, USA)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 31 March 2020

Issue publication date: 19 June 2020



The purpose of this paper is to suggest some ways that service scholars can shape the future of the service discipline by building knowledge that is useful to businesses, individuals, communities, institutions, society and the bio-environment.


This paper explicitly considers how global trends are likely to influence future research challenges in the service discipline. Then, service research priorities are identified by drawing upon the principles of responsible research in business and management (RRBM) (


The paper identifies and analyzes many future service challenges arising from socioeconomic, demographic, technology and service systems, environmental and social changes. These changes are categorized as favorable and unfavorable in their effect on the well-being of people, organizations, society and the environment.

Research limitations/implications

This paper advocates more study of sustainability in service ecosystems, automation and the nature of service work, inclusion, equality and well-being of service workers; service in subsistence markets and the societal implications of new technology and big data.

Practical implications

The paper provides guidance for service marketers regarding research questions that are important to society and will need to be addressed by the year 2050. It translates the principles of RRBM into useful approaches to service marketing challenges that can be followed by all service researchers.

Social implications

This paper discusses important societal issues such as individual and societal needs for privacy, security and transparency; the ethical sourcing and treatment of service workers and the impact of service actions on environmental outcomes.


The conceptual framework integrates knowledge about service research in a new way, with insights for future service researchers, managers and public policymakers.



Bolton, R.N. (2020), "Commentary: future directions of the service discipline", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 34 No. 3, pp. 279-289.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited