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Service Provider Flexibility: A Strategic Perspective
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stockholm Business School.
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is about service provider flexibility and how provider flexibility facilitates customer value creation in contexts where customer processes and activities change. Provider flexibility is delineated as a mechanism of value creation and defined as the ability of the service provider to respond to changes or to bring about changes that support its customers’ value creation. Although provider flexibility has been implied as a relevant factor in value creation, previous studies focusing on some kind of provider flexibility would benefit from a deeper understanding of the strategic role that service provider flexibility plays in value creation.

The purpose of this study is to provide a framework that explicates the strategic role of provider flexibility in value creation. The role of provider flexibility in the adjustment of the provider’s processes and activities and the development of opportunities based on insights from customer interactions are thus emphasized. Moreover, while these insights from customer interactions can offer valuable development opportunities for the service provider, these opportunities yield returns only with the transfer of the insights back to the service provider’s organization.

The research process evolves along five research articles that develop the understanding of the strategic role of provider flexibility in value creation. The study builds on the empirical data from five service organizations of large industrial firms. The empirical insights from the articles are expanded and their conclusions further developed by iteratively and abductively substantiating the research model. The discussion explicates how exercising provider flexibility—in the form of organizational flexibility in the provider sphere, interaction flexibility in the joint sphere, and flexibility in use in the customer sphere—contributes to value creation. Moreover, findings show that the provider and the customer are entwined in a service system surrounding their service relationship. Provider flexibility in this aspect functions not merely as a mechanism of value creation, but also as a carrier of knowledge and information about the customer. Having this dynamics in mind, the provider continues to use provider flexibility to reinvent itself and constantly evolve the organization.

This thesis contributes to the literature by providing a framework that explicates the strategic role of provider flexibility in value creation. More specifically, the contributions are: 1) an increased understanding of how provider flexibility in value creation is exercised, placing provider flexibility at the core of the encompassing process of value creation, and thus explicating the manner in which the encompassing process of value creation can unfold; and 2) an increased understanding of the strategic role of the work of part-time marketers by delineating the process of provider flexibility in value creation where different aspects of provider flexibility in value creation are linked.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2015. , 91 p.
Keyword [en]
provider flexibility, value creation, service logic, service, strategic flexibility
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-123653ISBN: 978-91-7649-297-0 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-123653DiVA: diva2:875430
Public defence
2016-01-29, Gröjersalen, hus 3, Kräftriket, Roslagsvägen 101, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Manuscript. Paper 3: Accepted. Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2016-01-05 Created: 2015-12-01 Last updated: 2017-03-27Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Disintermediation in Business-to-Business Service Channels: Mechanisms and Challenges
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Disintermediation in Business-to-Business Service Channels: Mechanisms and Challenges
2013 (English)In: Journal of Business-to-Business Marketing, ISSN 1051-712X, E-ISSN 1547-0628, Vol. 20, no 4, 179-192 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose: The aim of this article is to delineate a number of different disintermediation mechanisms within the context of business-to-business (B2B) service channels and to identify the specific challenges associated with adopting these mechanisms. Methodology: The research was conducted in accordance with abductive reasoning, moving continuously between the empirical world of 4 industrial (B2B) firms and the model world. Findings: This article delineates a choice of 6 disintermediation mechanisms and their attendant challenges within the context of industrial service channels. Contribution: The article provides an original conceptualization of disintermediation, which is detached from the traditional understanding of the concept. As such, it constitutes a useful starting point for the development of a formal theory of disintermediation. Implications for Practice: This article should be useful for practitioners, because it presents various disintermediation options available to industrial firms faced by undesired intermediaries in their industrial service channels.faced by undesired intermediaries in their industrial service channels.

Keyword
service, disintermediation, industrial marketing, intermediaries, servitization
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-88442 (URN)10.1080/1051712X.2013.813717 (DOI)000327421700001 ()
Funder
VINNOVA, P36779-1
Available from: 2013-03-15 Created: 2013-03-15 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
2. Strategic flexibility: A literature review
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Strategic flexibility: A literature review
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Previous literature reviews of strategic flexibility have a number of shortcomings, such as an excessive definitional focus or a lack of a specific focus in the field. To overcome these shortcomings, this paper aims to systematically and critically analyse the literature on strategic flexibility by identifying its main characteristics and linking the different aspects together in a new conceptual framework. Various aspects of strategic flexibility in the relevant literature (149 contributions) are analysed in this comprehensive analytical model. Thus, the systematic and critical approach of this article offers a novel perspective in understanding strategic flexibility and contributes to the field by providing a consolidation of the literature and indicating future research avenues.

Keyword
strategic flexibility, flexibility, literature review
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-123650 (URN)
Available from: 2015-12-01 Created: 2015-12-01 Last updated: 2015-12-01Bibliographically approved
3. Service flexibility: conceptualizing value creation in service
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Service flexibility: conceptualizing value creation in service
2016 (English)In: Journal of service theory and practice, ISSN 2055-6225, E-ISSN 2055-6233, Vol. 26, no 6, 868-888 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to analyze the subject-specific literature on service and flexibility and derive a conceptualization of the linkages between provider flexibility and customers' value creation. Design/methodology/approach - The authors analyze existing perspectives on service and flexibility and propose linkages between provider flexibility and customer value creation. Findings - Drawing on the service logic literature, and utilizing real-world examples, this paper advances propositions and a conceptual model of how flexibility can contribute to value creation. Research limitations/implications - This paper establishes the basis for a practical and applicable flexibility perspective on value creation. It is particularly important for service-oriented providers and other firms operating in dynamic contexts. Practical implications - The propositions and conceptual model offer suggestions on the manner in which provider flexibility contributes to customer value creation. Contextual influences that moderate provider flexibility in value creation are also included. Originality/value - This paper contributes a novel perspective on service, which may serve as the starting point for the development of a more formal flexibility perspective on value creation.

Keyword
Service logic, Service, Flexibility, Value co-creation, Value creation
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-140383 (URN)10.1108/JSTP-09-2014-0219 (DOI)000393032600006 ()
Available from: 2017-03-27 Created: 2017-03-27 Last updated: 2017-11-29Bibliographically approved
4. Handling change: An explorative study of strategic flexibility
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Handling change: An explorative study of strategic flexibility
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Previous research on strategic flexibility offered a rather simplistic view of how firms act in regards to changes without emphasising the interaction between the natures of changes in the business environment, the actions of the firm, and the organisational factors that frame the actions. The purpose of this article is thus to provide a framework that explicates how firms handle changes in their environment, emphasising influences from the context of the situation. The article employs explorative case research and abductive reasoning. Ten situations requiring flexible actions in five large market-leading northern European firms are explored. The findings and the analysis highlight the interaction of these three elements, delineate changes as positive and negative and show how actions of firms are context-dependent. A framework showing these findings and emphasising how firms gather and process context-specific information and knowledge about the changes is presented as the main contribution of the article. The implications of the findings are presented in the discussion, followed by future research suggestions and practical implications.

Keyword
strategic flexibility, strategic change, strategic options, change management
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-123651 (URN)
Available from: 2015-12-01 Created: 2015-12-01 Last updated: 2015-12-01Bibliographically approved
5. Making sense of service dynamics: the honeybee metaphor
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Making sense of service dynamics: the honeybee metaphor
2015 (English)In: Journal of Services Marketing, ISSN 0887-6045, E-ISSN 0887-6045, Vol. 29, no 6-7, 634-644 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to explore the honeybee colony metaphor as a tool to make sense of the dynamics of service systems surrounding a service relationship. Design/methodology/approach - Based on qualitative case research, this study develops and applies the metaphor of honeybee colonies as a tool to analytically and discursively draw parallels between different aspects of honeybees and service systems surrounding a service relationship, focusing on the dynamic nature of both. Findings - The honeybee colony metaphor can serve as an analytical tool, helping managers to make sense of the dynamics of service interactions and, as a discursive tool, giving sense to the strategic implications of service providers' everyday activities. Research limitations/implications - Few metaphors, no matter how complex, can wholly capture reality. The honeybee colony metaphor describes the dynamics surrounding a service relationship at a comprehensive level. Further research can focus on the metaphor's particular aspects (the changing role of honeybees in the system, for example) or distortions (e.g. parasitic relationships). Practical implications - The honeybee colony metaphor illustrates the strategic importance of part-time marketers; they "pollinate" and "fertilize" the customers and properly assessed information that they report represents a basis for strategic decisions. Originality/value - The introduction of the honeybee colony metaphor in this paper provides a new lens for capturing the dynamic aspects of service systems surrounding a service relationship and the strategic implications derived from adopting a systemic outlook on service.

Keyword
Metaphor, Service, Honeybees, Service dynamics, Service relationship, Service systems
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-122197 (URN)10.1108/JSM-01-2015-0046 (DOI)000369386100022 ()
Available from: 2015-10-28 Created: 2015-10-28 Last updated: 2017-12-01Bibliographically approved

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