Monthly Archives: August 2014

25 Years of the Compete Through Service Symposium – an interview with Dr. Mary Jo Bitner


Pictures from CTS 2013

This November in Scottsdale Arizona, business executives, academic faculty and students from a wide variety of industries and backgrounds will come together to be part of the 25th Annual Compete Through Service Symposium, hosted by the Center for Services Leadership (CSL). 25 years ago, it started with humble beginnings – the CSL had crafted a presentation at the request of its board of advisors to present the latest knowledge in what was then a new field: the study of services as a source of competitive advantage in the marketplace. The CTS Symposium is now widely considered to be one of the foremost business conferences in the services field in the world. We speak now with Dr. Mary Jo Bitner, Professor and Executive Director for the Center for Services Leadership, on this year’s program, the enduring as well as the newest topics in services, and on the Compete Through Service Symposium experience.

Q:  This year’s Symposium is structured around three main topic areas in the services arena – Service Innovation, Customer Experience and Engagement, and Service Revenue and Growth. Could you tell us a bit more about these themes and how they were chosen?

We are very excited about the themes for this year’s CTS. From listening closely to our CSL Board Member companies and in our current efforts around documenting priorities for the science of service, we are confident that these themes resonate with businesses across a wide variety of industries.

  • Service Innovation is absolutely critical for organizations who expect to flourish and lead into the future.
  • Customer Experience and Engagement is how organizations connect with and build positive relationships with their customers for the long term.
  • Service Revenue and Growth are essential for survival and increased profitability in highly competitive markets from retail to high tech to manufacturing.

The program this year is very exciting in that it brings a mix of speakers (B2B, B2C, and Thought Leadership) around each of these themes along with plenty of opportunity to learn and interact with speakers and attendees.

Compete Through Service Symposium - 25 years

Pictures from Compete Through Service Symposium archives

Q: In your experience with the Symposium, how have the topics of conversation in services evolved over the past 25 years?

Having been involved with this program since its inception 25 years ago, it is interesting to note the evolution of topics and conversations. While some of the standby topics – service culture, understanding customers, employee engagement, hiring, and motivation, and service design – remain central for everyone, there has been an evolution in how the topics are discussed and what people want and need to know. In the early years, there was more of a cheer-leading and inspirational dimension to the presentations at the Symposium. People were just learning about the importance of service(s), customer focus, and their relevance to the bottom line. All of this was new. They wanted motivating stories and in many ways people just had to “believe” that service was important and the right thing to do.

Now, these same topics and others are presented very strategically with a more detailed focus on outcomes, metrics, and best practices for true organizational transformation and sustained success. Our speakers this year clearly demonstrate this deep strategic orientation. For example, Amazon’s story is one of commitment to customers and service from the very beginnings of the company, and this commitment is systematically tied to an innovative culture and long-term financial metrics. Other companies we will feature, such as Siemens and DuPont, are on a “service infusion” journey aimed at evolving their very successful, product oriented companies into profitable service and solution providers. Emphasis on metrics, data, capabilities, and information in is critical to success on this journey. This focus on growth and metrics will also be emphasized by Salesforce and Great Clips. Customer experience – which has been rallying cry across industries – is a strategy that has evolved remarkably in the last several years. The Diamondbacks organization and Vocera will convey the art, science, and outcomes that are behind successful customer experience strategies. It is no longer enough to talk in abstract terms about the importance of service and customers – we are definitely into the science of service today!

Q: The topic of leveraging services for competitive advantage in the marketplace is a highly popular one – what makes the Compete Through Service Symposium unique?

The Compete Through Service Symposium is unique in a number of ways. First, we are university-based and thus understand these topics and issues from a deep knowledge and thought leadership perspective. Our faculty are global thought leaders in this space. Over the years, institutions and businesses around the world have come to rely on us to develop priorities for the science of service that will have beneficial outcomes for businesses, people, and communities. This blend of academic rigor and practical business applications is visible and tangible at the Symposium. Another uniqueness is that this is not a typical industry conference, nor is it focused on a specific business function such as marketing, information systems, or supply chain. All industries and all functions bring something to the table, and it is in the bringing together of these viewpoints, along with the academic science that underlies them, that the Symposium comes to life and provides its unique value.

Q:  What is your advice for those attending to get the very most out of their experience?

The Symposium provides the opportunity to learn from a host of outstanding speakers and attendees from across industries who share the passion for service science. To get the most out of the opportunity, I think people need to come ready to learn and share, with an open mind to finding innovative ideas from industries outside their own. Each participant should look for those key nuggets of knowledge that they can apply tomorrow to make a difference. One of the greatest benefits of the Symposium is the chance to interact with and learn from others who are attending. We encourage everyone to engage with the diversity of attendees and also to relish in the common interests and focus. There will be plenty of opportunities for Q&A, small group interactions, and sharing via social media. Our attendees can expect to experience memorable moments of inspiration, collaboration, projects, friendships, and truly big and bold ideas that are born every year at the program. We hope that everyone will take advantage of the 2 ½ days they have at this unique event to truly learn, apply, and engage.


The 25th Annual Compete Through Service Symposium will take place November 5-7, 2014 at the Hilton Resort and Villas in Scottsdale, Arizona. For more information and to register, visit


Service-Dominant Logic in a Nutshell

LuschBy Robert F. Lusch

There is no other Business than a Service Business

Ingrained in our mindset, through schooling, industry practices and government accounting is the belief that the economy consists of primary or extractive industries such as mining, fishing, forestry and farming; secondary industries such as manufacturing which takes the outputs from primary industries and produce stuff (units of manufactured goods); and tertiary industries, referred to as services, which are essentially defined in contradistinction to what is not primary or secondary or what is not “tangible” or “goods” like. These industries include finance, insurance, government, transportation, wholesaling and retailing, education, healthcare and many others. These industries produce intangible units of output vs. the primary and secondary produce tangible units of output. In Service-dominant logic (S-D logic) Steve Vargo and I show that is blatantly incorrect.

When I teach executive MBA students and other executives I often give them the example of an early stage economy from thousands of years ago of two tribes or villages near the sea. One village over the centuries has become quite skilled at tilling the soil and producing grains. The other has obtained knowledge and skills to build boats, spears and other tools and has the knowledge of what time of day or year to go out to sea to gather fish. Of course we know as humans specialize they produce more than they need for their own uses and then exchange their surpluses with others that specialize in other types of production. My question to my students is the one I pose to you? What do the two tribes exchange? Most state the obvious which is they exchange fish for wheat. Virtually all economists would embrace this answer as correct.

With not a very good reaction from the class I tell them their answer is wrong! What is being exchanged is the protein gathering knowledge and skills of one tribe with the carbohydrate gathering skills of the other tribe. I then tell them to think of service as the application of skills and knowledge to benefit another or oneself. Do not think of services as what goods are not! I tell them that all of exchange (regardless of the tangible nature or not) is an exchange of service[1].

Historical distinction between extractive, manufacturing, services then becomes artificial and misleading to firms and governments. All businesses and industries are in service industries that can be facilitated by tools or appliances (tangible things) that help leverage the power of humans in their specialized tasks of serving one another. A service mentality thus is one that focuses on the process and flow of serving others and not the production of units of output whether they are cars produced or beds filled in a hotel.

Another step away from the Goods-dominant logic (G-D logic) inevitably leads us to challenge the entrenched belief that what distinguishes goods from services are the IHIP characteristics. Services are intangible, heterogeneous, inseparable and perishable; at least that most professors and consultants tell us that distinguishes services from goods. But if all industries and business are service businesses then all market offerings should strive to be IHIP[2].

Let us take something as good-like or tangible as a manufactured automobile. When it comes to the use of the automobile it turns into an appliance for providing transportation and other service. And the memory of driving that car filled with children to a soccer game or camping event is intangible. Services are viewed as heterogeneous and goods – homogeneous. But only in the factory is the tangible product homogeneous as it meets standardized engineering design and production criteria. The automobile, when it is used as a service appliance, is heterogeneous; some use it for work, recreation, romance, convenience, status enhancement and many other purposes. Undoubtedly, the new Ford Mustang, BMW, or Lexus is only homogeneous in the factory but like any service it is heterogeneous when it interfaces with and is evaluated by the customer user. We also say services are inseparable between producer and user. But as we just illustrated, the automobile, when in use, becomes a cocreated inseparable value experience. Finally, we willingly accept the dogma that services are perishable and cannot be stored and argue that is a disadvantage of services. However, in a world where natural resources and related environmental concerns are of increased importance, it appears that being perishable is a great advantage (not disadvantage) that should be sought after by every business. Perhaps that is why we see the rise of car sharing services where the inventorying of a car is shared by hundreds instead of sitting unused in a garage or parking lot 20 or more hours a day.

Hopefully, I am making a convincing point “it is all about service”. If everyone applies their knowledge and skills to help others; sometimes directly or sometimes indirectly via a tangible good, then we not only all serve one another but we also do jobs for one another. This leads us to ask ourselves what is the job that the customer hires the firm’s market offering (product) to do for them[3]? Tide, for example, is a top-selling Procter & Gamble (P&G) laundry detergent. Its success can be attributed to a long history of helping customers to better do the job of cleaning clothes.[4] P&G understands that Tide is simply a means by which individuals obtain the service of fresh and clean clothes and other fabrics. For over sixty years, Tide has taken a service-centric view of its brand by making improvements to help customers better do their job. Liquid Tide was launched in 1984 and much of its success was due to package design – especially the cap on the bottle. Two critical activities in the job of cleaning clothes are measuring the amount of detergent and pre-treating stained clothes, and the little cap on the bottle was an appliance for getting both of these tasks done better! Bleach was added to Tide in 1989 to better brighten clothes, and Febreze was added in 1998 to add freshness to clothing. Touch of Downey was added in 2004 to enhance clothing softness, and Tide Coldwater was introduced in 2005 to allow households to save energy while cleaning clothes.

In my new book with Stephen L. Vargo, Service-Dominant Logic: Premises, Perspectives, Possibilities, published in 2014 by Cambridge University Press, we offer a more complete explanation of S-D logic. As Jim Spohrer, a thought leader in service science at the IBM Almadem Research, writes in the forward to the book: “Lusch and Vargo correctly note that IBM’s focus on service science, management, and engineering (SSME) is a direct reflection of the two-decade transformation journey of one whole firm from G-D logic toward S-D logic. Furthermore, everyone in the service science community can most certainly benefit from a deeper appreciation of S-D Logic, as that community works together to build the body of knowledge and tools (service appliances) that will help us to better understand service systems and value cocreation phenomena.”

You can learn more about S-D logic, view our many presentations and upcoming speaking events at Some of the more foundational writings on S-D logic can be found in our over two-dozen coauthored articles[5]. Anyone who is interested in the subject, regardless of discipline or industry background, is also invited to participate in the Naples Forum on Service next held during June 9-12, 2015 in Naples, Italy ( The Naples Forum is organized around three pillars S-D logic, Service Science, and Systems and Networks. It represents dozens of disciplines and brings attendees from throughout the world.

twitterRobert Lusch is the Muzzy Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Arizona. Lusch is past Chairperson of the AMA and Editor of the Journal of Marketing. In 2013 he received the AMA/Irwin Distinguished Educator Award. He is the author of 18 books and over 150 articles and is a member of the Center for Services Leadership Faculty Network as Distinguished Faculty.

  1. To our knowledge, Fredric Bastiat first formally recognized the fundamental nature of service-for-service exchange. See Bastiat, Fredric (1860). Harmonies of Political Economy. Patrick S. Sterling, trans. London: J. Murray. Bastiat, Fredric (1964). Selected Essays on Political Economy, (1848), Seymour Cain, Trans., George B. de Huszar, ed. Reprint, Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nordstrand.
  2. This idea is more fully explored in: Stephen L. Vargo and Robert F. Lusch, “The Four Service Marketing Myths: Remnants of a Goods-Based, Manufacturing Model,” Journal of Service Research, 6 (May 2004), pp. 324-335.
  3. C.M. Christensen, S.D. Anthony, G. Berstell, and D. Nitterhouse, “Finding the Right Job for Your Product,” MIT Sloan Management Review, 48/3 (Spring 2007): 2-11. L.A. Bettencourt and A.W. Ulwick, “The Customer-Centered Innovation Map,” Harvard Business Review, 86/5 (May 2008): 109-114. A.W. Ulwick and L.A. Bettencourt, “Giving Customers a Fair Hearing,” MIT Sloan Management Review, 49/3 (Spring 2008): 62-68.
  4. A.G. Lafley and R. Charan, The Game-Changer: How You Can Drive Revenue and Profit Growth With Innovation (New York, NY: Crown Business, 2008).
  5. S.L. Vargo and R.F. Lusch, “Evolving to a New Dominant Logic for Marketing,” Journal of Marketing, 68/1 (January 2004): 1-17. S.L. Vargo and R.F. Lusch, “The Four Service Marketing Myths: Remnants of a Goods-Based, Manufacturing Model,” Journal of Service Research, 6/4 (May 2004): 324-335. S.L. Vargo and R.F. Lusch, “Service-Dominant Logic: Continuing the Evolution,” Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 36/1 (March 2008): 1-10.


Note: All content within this website is the property of Center for Services Leadership. Any use of materials, except for social media sharing, without the prior written consent of Center for Services Leadership is strictly prohibited.