University of Edinburgh Business School


CenSE has a strong research focus in many aspects of service excellence frequently leading and collaborating on high impact projects.

Service management theory has to date developed along two lines, in isolation from each other. Service marketing has focused upon the process of service delivery and the role of relationships within these processes, whilst operations management has focused on the systems underlying service delivery. Thus in the UK, Exeter and Loughborough are oriented to operations management whilst Manchester is focused upon marketing. Other centres take a sectoral approach, with both Surrey and Bournemouth focusing upon tourism and hospitality and Said Business School on retailing. Our unique contribution to theory is to bring these two elements together. Our model integrates the processes and relationships that interact within service system. Within this approach co-production will be at the heart both of our research and engagement agenda and of our ‘modus operandi’. Widely discussed as a core element of service, co-production is poorly theorised and researched. We will make a major contribution to theory and practice here. Finally, we situate this approach within an appreciation of the societal context of service and services that is currently wholly absent in the field.

Consequently, our research and engagement agenda will focus on four significant issues that will form our work packages. These will add value and enrich both our understanding of service management and inspire effective managerial practice.

Understanding the practice of co-production in service delivery

As suggested above co-production is a core element ascribed to service delivery. However over time its elements have been poorly understood and often aggregated together. This stream of work will produce new theory and empirical knowledge about the nature and contingencies of co-production and use these as the basis on which to challenge and change practice. Work in this work package will include theorising co-production (Osborne), co-productive responses to service loyalty and service failure (El-Manstrly), considering the role of employees in co-production (Loretto), co-creating identity in service systems (Gilmore) and co-production and consumer loyalty (Harrison). The cornerstone of this work package, fundamental to CenSE overall, is a major study to be conducted by Osborne conceptualising co-production and exploring the implications of this through cross-sectoral empirical research.

Transforming service delivery

A range of societal and economic challenges are changing the nature of service delivery. Globalisation is of course significant, but equally the impact of digital technology and demographic changes are just as significant. This work package will explore what these challenges are and how they can be embraced to add value to the service economy worldwide. Work in this work package will include the impact of social media and digital technology on service delivery (Marder), the impact of service interactions on transforming consumers’ wellbeing and quality of life (El-Manstrly), globalisation and east-west perspectives on service delivery (Kinder), the impact of the ageing workforce on service organisations (Loretto), changes in human resource configurations and their impact on service delivery (Patel), and the impact of structural changes in the service industry on service systems and service delivery (Safavi).

Innovation in service delivery

Service firms are embracing a range of innovations to address the above transformational change in the nature of service. This work package will explore the management of such innovation in service systems and service delivery, with an especial focus on the co-production of innovation. Work in this work package will include the governance of risk in innovation in service delivery (Mare and Moreira), user-led innovation (Kinder), the co-production of innovation in public services (Flemig and Osborne), and the role of entrepreneurship in stimulating innovation in service delivery (Hatem).

Leadership and accountability within service systems

The above challenges require both strategic leadership and changes in the accountability relationships between service systems and their consumers. This final work package will explore the implications of this for effective service delivery. Work in this work package will include accountability and regulation in the banking sector (Hagendorff and Harrison), strategy and change in the service sector (Harwood), ownership and accountability in service firms (Henderson), and strategy and leadership in the service sector (Kirkup).

The work of CenSE will focus initially upon five significant industries within the service sector: banking and finance, the creative arts and the media, public services, retailing, and tourism and leisure.

Each of these work packages will develop a research and engagement plan to integrate the insights from their component research elements. The enactment of the work packages will also be predicated on CenSE’s service model: the governance of service processes and relationships within integrated service systems and with co-production as the core of this governance. This model will form the basis of our contribution and be built empirically and theoretically from the work carried out across CenSE.

The achievement of CenSE’s vision and mission is also predicated upon collaboration and coproduction as a core value of the Centre in all element of its work. This will be enacted on three specific ways: through collaboration work with the other research centres with UEBS and across the university, the development of international collaborations to drive the research agenda, and co-productive collaboration and engagement with the private, public and third sectors to ensure that the advances in knowledge and understanding produced are harnessed to have an impact on effective service delivery. In each of these spheres the intention will be to add value to and to extend existing work and relations by collaboration.