Addressing complexity and taking a systemic view in service research

Managing Service Quality: An International Journal

ISSN: 0960-4529

Article publication date: 4 November 2014



Polese, F., Mele, C. and Gummesson, E. (2014), "Addressing complexity and taking a systemic view in service research", Managing Service Quality: An International Journal, Vol. 24 No. 6.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Addressing complexity and taking a systemic view in service research

Article Type: Guest editorial From: Managing Service Quality, Volume 24, Issue 6

In the last decade service research has been revitalized through main inputs coming from Service-Dominant (S-D) logic, Service Science and Network and Systems Theory.

S-D logic has contributed with a tentative higher level service theory of the best contributions of the past, and pointing directions for the future. Through the deployment of its premises and axioms, S-D logic renewed the service field and focused on resource integration, value-co-creation, actor-to-actor interaction (A2A), service ecosystems and institutions as key topics in marketing theory (Vargo and Lusch, 2008, 2011). The foundational idea of "service for service exchange" offers a unified understanding of the purpose and nature of organizations, markets and society. This idea has been recently further exploited in highlighting the open, complex and adaptive nature of service ecosystems (Wieland et al., 2012).

Service Science is a long-term global research program run by IBM together with universities, businesses and governments. It started from practitioner experiences and challenged our way of designing and implementing service systems. It is an interdisciplinary umbrella that enables scholars from different cultures and specialties to cooperate in addressing the shift toward service-based economies. New business challenges have emerged and leaders need guidance on how to innovate, manage, evaluate and optimize their service operations (Spohrer and Maglio, 2008).

Network Theory and Systems Theory have been deployed to address complexity with applications like Many-to-Many Marketing (Gummesson, 2006) and the Viable Systems Approach, VSA (Barile and Polese, 2010). Systems thinking and a holistic view have been applied to marketing to offer a different way of looking at market phenomenon and service exchange (Mele et al., 2014).

The multiple insights from S-D logic, service science and network and systems theory have formed the three pillars of the Naples Forum on Service since it was first held in 2009. As well, the cross-fertilization of researchers coming from various cultural domains has been the aim of the Naples Forum on Service. The Forum is indeed an effort to stimulate what we call Paradigm 3 research, communicate it and speed up its progress across disciplines and cultures. With Paradigm 3 (2000s-) the focus of service research moved from differences of goods and services to commonalities and interdependencies. It also moved from the supplier value chain to the value network of all stakeholders ("balanced centricity"), and service (in the singular) became the output irrespective of input (Gummesson and Polese, 2009; Gummesson and Mele, 2010). The roles of suppliers and customers have also changed through the recognition of co-creation of value with resource integration embracing all actors, A2A, and not limited to the supplier-customer dyad.

In the core of Paradigm 3 is the recognition of complexity. Service systems are enormously complex – it is not sufficient to study the relationship between just a few variables. The new millennium brought with it openings to address complexity and take a more systemic view.

At the third Naples Forum held on the Island of Ischia in 2013, we witnessed the development of a wide international service research network engaged in developing Paradigm 3. This special edition of Managing Service Quality offers five cutting-edge papers which constitute a small sample of the presentations. Each of them tries to bridge important service research gaps.

The first paper, "The Collective Consumption Network," by Elina Närvänen, Evert Gummesson and Hannu Kuusela introduces a network perspective on consumption and proposes a new category, collective consumption network. It builds on empirical case study research where A2A interaction stands out and within which customer-to-customer (C2C) interaction plays a central role. The consumption collective shows a diversity of ties; heterogeneity of orientations, structures and memberships; fluid boundaries; multiple interactions; and flat hierarchies. They all point to the complexity of the consumption network.

The second paper is "The contribution of VSA and SDL perspectives to strategic thinking in emerging economies" by Maria Luisa Saviano, Jaqueline Pels, Sergio Barile, Francesco Polese and Luca Carrubbo. Based on reflections on strategic marketing in emerging economies their study focuses on understanding what new business models are enabled by the Viable Systems Approach (VSA) and Service-Dominant Logic (SDL) perspectives. The integration of these perspectives allows authors to recognize a convergence toward business models that seem to be consistent with the principles of inclusive capitalism. Specifically, by shifting between a reductionist/static and a holistic/dynamic view, these perspectives can be integrated, thus revealing an interesting contribution to the understanding of inclusive business.

"Beyond Virtuality: From Engagement Platforms to Engagement Ecosystems" by Christoph Breidbach, Roderick Brodie and Linda Hollebeek addresses the role and implications of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in service. The authors introduce the notion of the "engagement ecosystem," as a configuration of individual, mutually dependent engagement platforms that represent specific interactivity-facilitative loci. By moving beyond a singular perspective, and toward a holistic understanding of engagement ecosystems that includes all actor touch-points, the authors explain if, how and why individual engagement platforms may enhance resource exchange and integration within and across service ecosystems.

Cristina Mele, Tiziana Russo-Spena and Maria Colurcio offer a fresh framing of innovation, as service innovation/value innovation in their paper "Research traditions of innovation: Goods-dominant logic, the resource-based approach, and service-dominant logic." By examining the visions, patterns and outcomes of three different research approaches to understanding innovation, the authors outline the contribution of each to the debate on innovation. S-D logic is proposed as better suited than the other two research traditions to frame current innovation because it moves innovation beyond mainstream conceptualization: from "products and services" to "service and value," from "buyer/seller dyads" to "ecosystem relationships," and from "closed/linear process" to "open/co-created process."

The paper "Theory of value co-creation: a systematic literature review" by Marco Galvagno and Daniele Dalli seeks to summarize and classify extant research and to better understand the state of the theory of value co-creation. The authors identify two main clusters representing scholarly journals' publications on co-creation over the past years. These research streams and themes apply three different theoretical perspectives: Service science, innovation and technology management, and marketing and consumer research. Six common themes are identified co-creating value through customer experience and competence, service-dominant logic, service innovation, the development of service science, online and digital customer involvement, as well as individual consumers and communities collaborating with companies.

Professor Evert Gummesson, Stockholm Business School, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden

Professor Cristina Mele, Economics, Management and Institutions, University of Naples "Federico II", Naples, Italy

Associate Professor Francesco Polese, Department of Business Studies and Research, University of Salerno, Salerno, Italy


Barile, S. and Polese, F. (2010), “Linking the viable system and many-to-many network approaches to service-dominant logic and service science”, International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 23-42

Gummesson, E. and Mele, C. (2010), “Marketing as value co-creation through network interaction and resource integration”, Journal of Business Market Management, Vol. 4 No. 4, pp. 181-198

Gummesson, E. and Polese, F. (2009), “B2B is not an island”, Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, Vol. 24 Nos 5/6, pp. 337-350

Gummesson, E. (2006), “Many-to-many marketing as grand theory”, in Vargo, S.L. and Lusch, R.F. (Eds), The Service-Dominant Logic of Marketing: Dialog, Debate, and Directions, ME Sharpe, Armonk, NY, pp. 339-353

Mele, C., Pels, J. and Storbacka, K. (2014), “A holistic market conceptualization”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, pp. 1-15, doi:10.1007/s11747-014-0383-8

Spohrer, J. and Maglio, P.P. (2008), “The emergence of service science: toward systematic service innovations to accelerate co-creation of value”, Production and Operations Management, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 238-246

Vargo, S.L. and Lusch, R.F. (2008), “Service-dominant logic: continuing the evolution”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 36 No. 1, pp. 1-10

Vargo, S.L. and Lusch, R.F. (2011), “It's all B2B and beyond: toward a systems perspective of the market”, Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 40 No. 2, pp. 181-187

Wieland, H., Polese, F., Vargo, S. and Lusch, R. (2012), “Toward a service (eco)systems perspective on value creation”, International Journal of Service Science, Management Engineering, and Technology, Vol. 3 No. 3, pp. 12-25

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