“The Future of Services” hosted in Maastricht: Reflections on the SERVSIG 2016 Service Research Conference

From June 17-19, Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics (SBE) hosted the world’s largest service research conference, with 270 participants from more than 30 countries. Research and education about Services have been a focus of SBE since its inception; we are proud that the Department of Marketing & Supply Chain Management has an excellent reputation in this area.

threeOver the past decades, services have evolved into the dominant economic sector, almost reaching two-thirds of GDP worldwide. Services can best be viewed as value created in the interaction between service providers (e.g., a hospital, a firm, a governmental agency) and service customers (e.g., patients, consumers, citizens). Everybody is every day subject to such service experience. As a consequence of the broad view, the service research community is by definition multidisciplinary and extends across such diverse disciplines as marketing, human resource management, innovation, strategy, information systems, economics, design, and operations management.

In this spirit, SBE established the Service Science Factory (SSF) to bridge academia and practice around service innovation and design. The SERVSIG 2016 Conference was co-organised by the department of Marketing & Supply Chain Management and the Service Science Factory brought together leading scholars to shape the future of services.

Diversity of themes
The broad nature of service research can also be witnessed from the diversity of themes in the SERVSIG 2016 conference programme. Tracks covered research in established services themes related to the service excellence, self-service technologies, customer centric organisations, sixco-creation, service optimization models and service industry in general; at the same time, a number of exciting novel themes emerged, such as transformative research focusing on health and well-being, new technologies (e.g. mobile, sensors, neuroscanners), digital services (e.g., new business models, digital strategies) and data analytics (e.g., text, picture, video and voice analysis).

The timelessness of the conference was emphasized by two plenary sessions at our conference. We discussed two highly relevant themes of (i) developing innovative services for emerging markets, and (ii) understanding the needs of refugees. One of UM’s alumni, who is a successful entrepreneur in South Africa, argued that getting a share of voice is of crucial importance when doing business in emerging markets.

firstIn an equally inspiring session, the needs of current refugees in Europe were illustrated by an emotional story by one of the refugees. He shared personal pictures of his journey and described the complexity of the service system that he is currently confronted with. Both sessions opened innovative and societally highly relevant, avenues for future service researches. The great success of the conference stems not only from the thematic relevance but also the entire organization which – as consistently mentioned by attendants – lived service excellence and gave evidence of the great Maastricht hospitality.

Visit here for an overview of the conference themes. For more photos, see SERVSIG 2016 on Flickr.

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