Digitized service system design contexts

In my earlier post, ”Digitality in service design thinking”, I mentioned digital touchpoints as points of interaction between the service provider and customer. I recently ran into an interesting article by Robert J. Glushko [1], where the interactions were divided into seven service system design contexts. Service system is the basic concept in service science and is defined to be a ”value co-production configuration of people, technology, other internal and external service systems, and shared information” [2]. A service system can be and include a part of other systems. The design contexts presented in Glushko’s paper can be used as building blocks for service systems:

Service system design contexts

Glushko’s contexts are an interesting way to consider the wide spread use of digital components in services. Only one of these seven contexts – the first one – does not include technology. The others by default do, though whether technology is always present in self-service is arguable.

Glushko also uses the concepts of front and back stage; front stage meaning interactions between the customer and service provider that are part of the service encounter, and back stage meaning activities that support the service encounter and make it possible [3]. There are often conflicting views between these designer groups. The back stage designers seek efficiency, robustness and scalability, whereas the front stage designers want to create enjoyable, unique and responsive services.

Glushko’s contexts are an interesting and practical way to look at service and its possibilities when designing service systems. As technologies develop so might the contexts; e.g. the seventh context has become a hot topic due to generalization of mobile devices.

The design contexts are useful in the interaction between a service provider and an end user but could also be utilized when designing for B2B or internal services. Creating a holistic view of a service system and concentrating on its design can help the communication of design options both between the back and front stage designers as well as with customers. It must be understood that a service system that is able to deliver is a result of both back and front stage and so its design requires co-operation.

Are there any more contexts that come to your mind?


[1]  Glushko, R.J. (2010) Seven contexts for service system design. In: P.P. Maglio et al. (ed.) Handbook of service science: Research and innovations in the service economy. Springer Science+Business Media, pp. 219-249.

[2]  Spohrer, J., Maglio, P., Bailey, J. and Gruhl,  D. (2007) Steps toward a science of service systems. IEEE Computer society: Volume 40, Issue 1, pp. 71–77.
[3]  Glushko, R.J. and Tabas, L. (2009) “Designing service systems by bridging the “front stage” and “back stage””. Information systems and E-business management: Volume 7, pp. 407-427.

One thought on “Digitized service system design contexts

  1. Pingback: Digitized service system design contexts | Service Science Odyssey - New digital technology

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