Bo Edvardssons home page

Welcome to my personal home page consisting of a short description of my research!

My research can be divided into five main areas:

  • Service Management and Marketing
  • Service Quality
  • Customer Relationship Dynamics (focusing on Critical Incident & Directive Incident studies)
  • New Service Development.
  • Service Culture and Service Strategy

There are also links to other fields such as marketing, theory of organization, general management, strategy and culture research, entrepreneurship, quality control and operations management.

 Additional research merits:

  • Member of the editorial staff of the following journals: International Journal of Service Industry Management, Managing Service Quality, International Journal of Internet Marketing & Advertising and Journal of Service Research.
  • Member of organizational committees for several research conferences on Service Management and for the international symposium on Quality in Services, QUIS 1-8, held every other year since 1988 alternately in Sweden and in the USA. Co-ordinator of the International Academy of Services Research and Education.
  • Member of the Board of Directors for, ETOUR, Östersund, Service Forum, Söderhamn and the Institute for Quality Improvement.
  • Opponent at 14 dissertations in Sweden, Finland, Norway and England.
  • Take part in Executive seminars in Malaysia and Singapore and other countries on a regular basis. 

In this section I will give a brief account of my research: what I have worked with, my view of the area I have researched in recent years and how I consider my research has contributed to the growth of knowledge.

My research can be divided into two main areas: Product Development and Service Management. There are of course links with other areas such as marketing, theory of organization, general management, strategy research, entrepreneurship, quality control and "operations management". However, I will not here refer to the links with these various fields of knowledge.

Product Development

The research that formed the basis of my thesis concerned company strategies for product development. While doing basic studies for a degree in agriculture, I became an assistant to Professor Harry Nyström (HN). HN inspired me to commence research on product development and innovations. The emphasis lay on companies' strategies, particularly the interplay between intended strategy, realized strategy and results. In these studies a frame of reference was developed and tested that makes it possible to describe and analyze/categorize the companies' strategies for product development. The conceptual framework and the results of empirical studies of companies in the food and agricultural machinery sectors are contributions to the growth of scientific knowledge. One of the two studies that focused on companies that manufacture agricultural machinery comprised an extensive study of 140 companies, by and large a total survey.

In several of the companies studied, the people interviewed emphasized the important part that services of various kinds play for competitiveness and profitability. Service, maintenance and stocking of spare parts, consultant services, training services, warranties and financial services may be mentioned as examples of services. Despite the central role that services were considered to play, very little attention was paid to them in product development. They appeared to be merely "an appendage to the hardware", there was no systematic work whatever on the development and design of new services, which among other things led to problems in the quality of the services. My interest in the quality and development of services can be attributed to the observations I made in conjunction with research within the scope of my doctoral thesis.

My interest in the customer perspective in product development work, which among others von Hippel at MIT emphasizes, led to my carrying out a study of how customers evaluate new food products. The study focused on factors, which - from the customer's point of view - are central in the choice of new food products.

Service Management

I will by way of introduction give a brief account of which areas of research and which issues I have treated in the seven years or so that I have devoted to research into Service Management, and what I consider that I have contributed to the growth of knowledge.

My research in the field of Service Management may be described in the following areas:

  • My distinctive area is the quality concept in the production of services. I have carried out 20 or so studies in this field, with different approaches to the problems of quality. Customer experienced quality has been studied, both internally and externally. Particular attention has been paid to critical incidents in customer relations. I consider that I have contributed to an increase in understanding of customer care and the handling of complaints
  • Marketing of services, where I have among other things studied the role of services as a means of competition in the engineering industry, as well as writing a textbook.
  • The relationship between buyers and consultants, focusing on purchasing processes with regard to management consultant services.
  • Productivity in the production of services.
  • Internationalization in service companies, where a frame of reference has been developed for the analysis of internationalization processes in service companies. Ten companies with international operations have been studied in detail.
  • Based on the theory of social cognition, methods to survey the strategic thinking of participants in (service) companies have been developed.
  • In the past five years I have devoted a great deal of my time to the development and design of services with the purpose of building in the right quality. A number of case studies have been carried out, which has contributed to a wider knowledge of the difficulties and success factors in the development of services. A theoretical frame of reference for description and analysis of the design of services and the process of service development are important contributions to the growth of knowledge. A number of articles and papers have been published.


We live in a service society. The private and public service sectors account for 70 % of the Swedish gross domestic product. If we add to this the production of services effected in manufacturing companies the proportion rises to about 85 %

Despite the great importance services have in our society, rather little attention has been paid to the management, organization, marketing and development of service operations. Modern management is based to a large extent on studies of and experience from large manufacturing companies. These management principles are not always appropriate in service companies where small-scale advantages often prevail. In the past 10 - 15 years therefore, the field of Service Management has begun to establish itself, both in academic research and in industry. The need for further growth of knowledge is, however, great. We need to increase understanding of services and service production by developing concepts and models for description and analysis that capture what is characteristic of service operations. This has been an important part of my research, for instance the development and testing of a model for quality analysis, the so-called Consistency Model, development of a model for the handling of services as a means of competition, a frame of reference for description and analysis of internationalization strategies and processes in service companies, new methods for the description of strategic thinking based on the theory of social cognition, and a set of concepts and a tentative model for service design. In several empirical studies - for example by using the Critical Incident Technique - I have surveyed and analyzed what are important quality determinators from the customer's perspective.

Quality in services

One area in Service Management that has been paid particular attention and in which I have taken an interest is quality in services. Many executives regard quality as the most powerful medium for improving competitiveness, customer satisfaction and profitability. In many service companies 30 % of the staff are occupied with correcting faults. It is not quality that costs, but inadequate quality. The term inadequate quality cost should therefore be used and not quality cost.

A study among the heads of the 500 largest companies in Europe shows that quality from the customer's perspective is assessed as being much the most important strategic area of development during the nineties. The American Society for Quality Control (ASQC) makes a detailed survey every other year of how American executives regard quality, work with quality etc. In the latest study form 1989, carried out by Gallup, "QUALITY: Executives' Perceptions on Quality in a Competitive World", shows that improved quality of service is what is most frequently mentioned as a means to improve customer satisfaction.

That quality is profitable appears clearly from a large international study, the so-called PIMS study, in which about 3,000 business units were analyzed. (PIMS stands for Profit Impact of Market Strategies). The business units were divided into three groups on the basis of the customer perceived quality. The group with high customer perceived quality had 6 times higher profitability (measured as return on investment) compared with the poorer third. A common view among service researchers is that quality is fulfilling the customers' expectations, both customers in the market and customers or receivers of services within the service company. "Quality is meeting the customers' expectations and satisfying their needs/demands. Customer experienced quality is defined as the relationship between expected and perceived service".

My view of quality is: "Quality, as I see it, is a matter of finding out what creates value for the customer and achieving this. You have to be able to familiarize yourself with and have a profound understanding of the customer and the issue in question. What is fundamental is that the customer's demands are defined in the right way. If this is not the case, high quality can never be attained. Knowledge and understanding of what the customer needs must then be translated into a requirement specification for the services. At the next stage the requirements specification is converted into concrete services".

Speaking about high quality becomes unclear and rather meaningless from the management point of view. The term right quality should be used instead. By right quality is meant that the specification or requirements set up for the service in question have been achieved.

The characteristics of service production

Services are not a uniform concept. There are great differences between, for example, qualified consultant services and cleaning services. Despite these differences there are certain common, characteristic features in services. My research shows that they can primarily be attributed to the following:

  • The customer often participates directly and actively in the production process as a co-producer. It is therefore important to prepare for a working dialogue with the customer. Pedagogical production systems and customer training play an important part in this context. The customer's role, participation and responsibility in the production of a service must be made clear in order to attain the right quality.
  • Services are often abstract and therefore difficult to explain for the supplier and difficult to assess for the customer. This means that special demands are made on marketing so as not to create mistaken, often too high expectations from the customer. It is the responsibility of the service supplier to ensure that the customer does not have unrealistic demands and expectations. The control of customer expectations is all too often forgotten in quality work.
  • Many non-standardized services are very closely linked to the service supplier as a person. The knowledge, commitment and conduct of the staff are therefore important quality factors from the customer's perspective.
  • In all service production it is important to specify/clarify the services you are working with. These must, moreover, be communicated within the organization and accepted by the staff. This not only applies to services offered externally to customers in the market, but also within the company, in relationships with internal customers and for internal services.

Service design

My research into service production and the quality of service operations indicates a need for increased understanding of how the services are basically designed. I have therefore partly returned to the field of product development in my research. Let me here give a brief account of how I view the area of service design, a field of research that in my opinion will be a subject of great interest among researchers in the service area in the years to come.

By the concept of service design I mean:

  • The design of the service concept or model for the service, i.e. the customer benefit and the advantages (value to the user/beneficiary) that the service (and its various elements) are intended to be the bearer of and convey to the customer. The concept should match the customer needs they are intended to satisfy.
  • The design of a production system and production process for the service. The basic idea is that the service, which arises during the process, with the support of the system, conforms to the service concept. The right customer perceived quality of service is built in from the start.

The service concept

Concept means pattern or model. The service concept must always be related to a customer. The customer, internal and/or external, decides the value and quality of the service. The service concept must correspond to all the different customer needs it is intended to satisfy.

In order to design a good service concept, you must familiarize yourself with the customer's situation, needs and expectations. You must have a profound understanding of the customer, the customer's world, the customer's business logic, the customer's basis of assessment, etc. Uncertainty as to who the customer is and what demands and preferences the customer has lies behind many failures in respect of new or modified services.

To ensure that customer requirements in various respects are satisfied, competent and demanding customers should assist in the design of new services. The various value- bearing elements of the service are designed in dialogue with the customer. Work is done interactively and the new service concept is built up together with the customer. This customer active paradigm gains all the more impetus when applied to product development for high-tech products, but seems even more natural and urgent for services.

When designing a service concept, it should be noted that individual services will often be included in systems together with other services, existing and/or new. To attain the right quality and high productivity these "system aspects" should also be considered.

The production system concept

Services often arise from interaction between people. The customer participates and often contributes actively during the process. The process in which the service arises takes place within the framework of a system. One description, based on my research, is that the components of the production system comprise the service company's staff, their customers, the organizational structure and the physical environment.

The staff are often regarded as the key resource of the service company. Unfortunately however, recruiting, training and phasing-out of personnel are not always handled systematically and professionally. The choice of members of staff and their training/ education should reasonably be an integrated part of the development of new services.

The production system should be designed so that it is easy for the customer not only to assist but also to contribute actively to the process. Pedagogical production systems, customer training etc play an important part in this context. The customer should be included when new services are designed and existing ones redesigned, in order to ensure that the interplay with the customer works and that the customer can contribute in the best way, both by giving information and by performing various items in the production process. Even the interplay between customers should be organized.

The physical environment in the form of technical systems, premises, equipment etc affects the service and gives clear signals as to quality. The fourth component is the organizational structure, which has to do with the division of responsibility and authority, planning and information systems, co-operation between different departments, various administrative aids and availability, for instance how easy it is for the customers to get in touch with the service supplier. Service design must also include these organizational aspects.

The service production process concept

Services are processes and, as mentioned earlier, they often arise from direct interaction between people, service suppliers and customers. To obtain a service that corresponds to the service concept, the process, including microprocesses, that "generate" the right service must be chiseled out in detail. Quality and productivity must be built in from the start by designing the "right" production process.

By production process is meant the chain (or chains) of activity that must exist in order to bring about the service. There are certain parts of the chain that are more problematic or critical than others. These should be given special attention so that the result is the desired service of the right, uniform quality.

Various parts of the production system are utilized during the process. The production system should support the process and not be an obstacle or create problems. The concept of quality in service production is the area I have given most attention to in my research. Amongst other things in this field, a model for analysis of service operations has been developed and tested in several empirical studies.