The growth of service marketing has been rapid in the recent past. Accompanying the growth is the less surprising academic interest in the field of service marketing, supported by the burgeoning peer-reviewed journals, service sector specialized journals, and academic books. The increased regular conferences and the rise in educational and research centers laid with the foundation of service marketing also adds flavor to the rapidly growing service sector. However the industry faces a challenge of the inability for clearly define its boundary, hence jeopardizing the possibility of charting its course in the needed direction. It therefore gives rise to the traditionally old question of what direction is the industry headed?
The need to answer the query of the service sector’s direction prompted Grove and his colleagues to investigate the phenomenon, with special focus on the recurring themes, possible disagreements among the experts. Service research experts were engaged in answering the specific question, “what directions would you like to see the services field take in the future” (Grove, Fisk and John, 2003: 108). The target respondents were the industry experts, who were expected to give their opinions on the development, status, and their role in the growth and transformation of the sector. The researchers took an exploratory approach to the research as there was no need for scientific knowledge about this trend. The findings are highlighted below.
The collection of the observation was made easy by allowing the panelists or rather individual respondents enough time to think freely and include every aspect of their thought regarding the question. The replies were kept in their original contexts for authenticity purposes (Grove, Fisk and John, 2003: 109). Analysis of the panelists’ answers took care of the common themes as well as the controversial ideas. The pattern of the contents analysis helped to uncover the meaning of various messages from varied sources. The researchers gave each response an open-minded view and adequate flexibility.
With the broad categorization on three areas: the nature of services; the scope of services; and services and value creation, the panelists opinions were as varied and similar in equal measure. While some foresee a clearly distinct industry different from the current one in the future, others maintain that the unending refinement that dominates the industry is not necessary and instead focus should be in making various changes. Controversially enough, some experts called for the dismissal of the differentiation of service from the tradition goods, with focus on the dropping of terms such as intangibility, inseparability and many more. Other comments ranged from the management of service and its impact on the environment.
In this regard, many panelists suggested more research on these areas, which include pricing criteria, environmental management, etc. Still; there were some issues that became common themes among the respondents, e.g. the interface between services and manufacturing, information and technology impact, and global service issues, outdated concepts and definitions. Of more concern at the final opinion was the need to refocus and redesign service quality for future success.