Frontline employees’ contributions and role in service innovation2018-04-18
Employees with continuous customer contact, frontline employees, play a key role in service innovation. By involving the frontline employees, management can create better conditions for attractive and realizable services. These are the findings in a new dissertation from CTF, Service Research Center, Karlstad University.
Jenny Karlsson, PhD in Business Administration at CTF, Service Research Center at Karlstad University, has studied service innovation and value creation processes from an employee perspective through interviews, observations and innovation group work in the private and public sectors. The purpose is to create an understanding of employee contributions in the development and implementation of services.
A bridge between organization and customer
Companies and organizations have long focused on the customer’s role in service innovation. The employees, who will perform and convey the service, are often overlooked in this process.
“Employees with regular customer contact function as a bridge between the organization and the customer. Their knowledge and experience from operational work combined with knowledge of customer’s value creation processes is a success factor in innovation work. By involving the employees, the risk of developing a service that does not respond to customer needs and expectations, or services that are not realizable in daily operations is reduced", says Jenny Karlsson.
Different roles of frontline employees
In the dissertation, Jenny Karlsson describes different roles that the employees’ may enact when involved in service innovation. When frontline employees act as deliverers of service, service innovation and value creation take place without major involvement of frontline employees, value is thus created when the service is delivered to the customer and a transaction has taken place.
In the role of co-creator, the employee is active in the service innovation process both in co-creating value with customers as well as facilitating customers’ own value creation when using the service. The dissertation, however, shows that service innovation and value creation is not always a harmonious process as previous research has given the impression of. Thus, frontline employees can also enact the role as negotiators of value between different actors.
“An increased understanding of how frontline employees and other actors contribute and collaborate in service innovation and value creation processes gives companies and organizations better opportunities to succeed in their innovation efforts,” says Jenny Karlsson.
Good results through innovation group work
The dissertation shows that employees contribute to service innovation, both when involved in specific innovation projects, and in the daily operation.
“It is important to create conditions and methods to take advantage of frontline employees’ knowledge and experience. A practical example is innovation groups with employees and customers, or patients. The method has proven to be a good way to generate ideas for new services and solutions to experienced problems in an organization”, says Jenny Karlsson.
Jenny Karlsson defended her doctoral thesis ”Frontline employees’ role in service innovation and value creation” on February 16th at Karlstad University.