|“In the service research that I conduct within my chair Customer-Centric Service Science the customer is always at the centre. I don’t depart from what the service provider can deliver or wants to deliver, but look at the customer. What does that customer want and does he experience (new) services as an added value? Banks are a good example: we get money from a cash dispenser, and don’t need to talk to anyone anymore about bank matters, because we can arrange everything via the internet. But do customers experience this as an added value or as a restriction of services?
Service Science is a new research discipline that studies service from a multidisciplinary perspective. I don’t just look at it from my marketing background, but I also learn from people with a background in information management, technology and design. It is my conviction that we have to look at service from different angles, because we will miss a large part if we don’t. Take the example of a hotel: you have to get your marketing right, so you arrange for a beautiful website with great pictures. At the same time your technical support has to be excellent, think for example of a smoothly running reservation system. And your personnel management has to be so well organized that the entire staff can deliver what you promise. That is why it’s important to study service from various disciplines and don’t limit ourselves to just one perspective.
An important component is service innovation. In that field we look at new possibilities and at other ways of realizing products or services. That is a very important element of Service Science, in which we preferably co-create, so collaborate with user and company. And we do that in our services factory: the Service Science Factory. There, we try to find new service innovations by collaborating with students, academic staff and people from the business world.
The Service Science Factory effectively started in May 2010. By now, we have already concluded fourteen projects with external parties. What we do is on the one hand knowledge valorisation, so disclosing what we developed within the academic walls and applying that to societal problems or challenges. On the other hand, we offer companies or other external organisations the opportunity to commission the R&D of services. Many companies are namely entirely focused on technological products and hardly think about innovation of services. And they most certainly don’t have R&D in that field. Here at the Service Science Factory we make sure that companies deal in a more innovative way with the possibility of offering services and entering new markets. The Service Science Factory consists of a relatively small permanent team. We are in fact knowledge brokers, and depending on the problem at hand we involve experts from inside and outside UM in a project. An example: the Service Science Factory currently develops in an eight-week period a virtual platform for a Kids University for Cooking, in which elementary school pupils learn about healthy food. For the development of that virtual platform we involve people from Health Education, a dentist, a person in Aachen (Germany) who knows about the latest technological possibilities, a designer from Cologne (Germany), but also our own people from Marketing and Communication. In eight weeks time we make a prototype of the platform. We are no consultancy firm that delivers a thick report or a flashy PowerPoint presentation after eight weeks. No, we create a working prototype that can be well communicated.
Our manner of working can be compared with that of designers: Design Thinking. Of course we use our academic background and try to build an academic foundation for projects, but because we work with the ‘pressure cooker’ approach (delivery of an innovative service concept within eight weeks), we can learn a lot from the way designers work: brainstorming about new products, testing, taking it back, refining it, etc. That’s the way we also work in our service innovation.
We collaborate with Arizona State University, where a Service Excellence Center has been established. Also with the University of Karlstad in Sweden, where a Service Science initiative has been realized. In a number of projects, we collaborate with the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore, India. There is also cooperation with the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule in Aachen and the Köln International School of Design, both in Germany. In our own region we cooperate with Hogeschool Zuyd, more specifically the Maastricht Hotel Management School with regard to hospitality. We are developing a minor that allows students from Hogeschool Zuyd to participate in our Service Science Factory projects.
By now, we have built great expertise, certainly also in the field of Complaint Management. Recently, we worked on a big project for a well-known Dutch comedian who made an inventory of complaints in the telecom industry to take action against this industry. We were regularly in the national media about this project. Our research is very topical and concrete.”