Service Research Priorities: Managing and Delivering Service in Turbulent Times

Published July 2021 by Professor Janet McColl-Kennedy

Ostrom, A. L., J.M. Field, D. Fotheringham, M. Subramony, A Gustafsson, K.N. Lemon, M. Huang and J.R. McColl-Kennedy (2021), “Service Research Priorities: Managing and Delivering Service in Turbulent Times”, Journal of Service Research 24, 3, pp. 329-353. The lead article in the August issue.


Professor Janet McColl-Kennedy

The world-at-large and services, in particular, are experiencing tectonic shifts resulting from technological innovations, challenges to institutions, demands for social justice, climate change, and a global pandemic, among other disruptions. Consequently, services need to evolve to be robust to such persistent turbulence, which requires a comprehensive reexamination and extension of service scholarship and practice. Customers, employees, managers, and the community are, and will remain, key stakeholders and have specific wants regarding service content and processes.


We set out to develop service research priorities (SRPs) identifying under-researched topics for which new insights can significantly influence business, organizations, and society.


We reached out to service scholars, practitioners, and the online public sphere to identify the set of thought-provoking and socially relevant priorities. Our multi-phase, multi-method approach enabled us to identify priorities that span disciplines, along with key stakeholder-wants associated with each SRP. We used multiple data sources and analyses: surveys of service scholars and practitioners, web scraping of online documents analyzed through machine learning and natural language processing, a review of published service scholarship, and roundtable discussions conducted at the world’s foremost service research centres, including UQ’s Service Innovation Alliance Research Hub, Co-led by Professor Janet McColl-Kennedy and Dr Christoph Breidbach.

Service Research Priorities 

We examine priorities related to significant changes in the world that urgently require attention. The first two—“technology and the changing nature of work” (SRP1) and “technology and the customer experience” (SRP2)—focus on leveraging technology for service provision and consumption. The next two—“resource and capability constraints” (SRP3) and “customer proactivity for well-being” (SRP4) —focus on responding to the changing needs of multiple stakeholders. The issues identified in these four priorities represent critical, actionable areas.

A key theme across all service research priorities (SRPs) is the uncertainty and turbulence that societies, firms, governments, and consumers face in the provision, access, and consumption of services. Whether it is challenges to institutions, demands for social justice, the need to address climate change, stresses related to global crises, or technological advances blurring the distinction between humans and machines, the priorities call for action.

Learn more about Service Innovation Alliance.