Services and Service Systems under a Mesoscopic Perspective

Purpose - In a recent paper, Tronvoll, Edwardsson, and Vargo observe that the ontological status of service systems is still not well articulated in the literature, despite the influence of an ontological perspective on the way service systems are understood and explained. The purpose of this paper is to clarify the nature of services and service systems, providing a definitional framework that, while grounded in rigorous ontological distinctions, reflects as much as possible the everyday business language, which doesn't focus on single economic transactions at the microscopic level, but rather sees services at a coarser level: the mesoscopic level.
Design/Methodology/Approach - Our ontological model of services describes them as complex temporal entities, constituted by interrelations of facts of different kind (states, actions and processes), occurring in a wider service system. A crucial role in our approach is played by the notion of commitment, which allows us to provide a definition of service as a generic commitment to guarantee the execution of value co-creation actions.
Findings - the paper provides an answer to the following foundational questions:
1. In the SDL literature, a service is defined at the microscopic level, i.e. at the level of a single value co-creation interaction. A service system is defined instead at the mesoscopic level, as a dynamic, possibly complex configuration of resources, which has its own lifecycle and a unique identity. How to reconcile the two views?
2. What is value co-creation, exactly? Does it focus on a single value experience (the customer's one), or does it also take into account the supplier's experience, including the whole value constellation? Can we really define a service as a value co-creation phenomenon, or the two notions are different although related?
Research limitations/implications - An important research challenge which is only marginally touched by this work is the ontological analysis of the notion of value.
Practical implications - Besides helping in understanding, clarifying and formalizing the basic notions of service science, we believe that this approach is also useful for describing and organizing different kinds of services. Originality/value - The main contribution is the rigorous characterization of services and service systems in ontological terms.

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Contributo in volume
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Service Dominant Logic, Network and Systems Theory, and Service Science: Integrating three Perspectives for a New Service Agenda, edited by Gummesson, E.; Mele, C.; Polese, F., 2013
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Nicola Guarino's picture
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