News at Smith

Center for Excellence in Service

Jan 01, 2008

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The American economy was built on manufacturing. Today the noise of the factories has died down to be replaced by the steady hum of computers. As our industrial economy has evolved into a knowledge-based economy, most of the new jobs created have been service jobs, not manufacturing jobs. But this doesn’t mean service workers in the traditional sense of burger-flippers and grocery checkers. We are becoming a nation of doctors, architects, accountants, lawyers, teachers, and computer experts—knowledge-based workers who are highly-skilled and highly-paid.

Eighty percent of the U.S. economy is now service-oriented. Service rather than goods drives much of the country’s economic growth. And this isn’t just an American phenomenon—it is a trend that is becoming more evident among industrial economies around the world.

This trend toward service rather than goods, along with the rapid expansion of the information economy and electronic networks, is explored in the Smith School’s Center for Excellence in Service (CES), which focuses on the impact of technology and information on managing customer relationships.

CES combines its unique perspective of customer point-of-view and an exploration of a variety of services (with a focus on information technology) in order to provide business leaders and academics with the latest knowledge in service research. CES also implements practical business objectives into its academic research and actively seeks partnerships within the business community.

CES works with corporations for whom service an important strategic consideration—a group that is growing year by year. “The economy is moving dramatically toward service and has for a hundred years. Many major corporations are just now figuring this out,” says Roland Rust, David Bruce Smith Chair in Marketing, chair of the Smith School’s marketing department and executive director of the center. “The center’s initiatives and corporate initiatives are combining well right now.”

Smith faculty work directly with corporate partners to pursue some of the most interesting and challenging issues arising from the service economy. Janet Wagner, associate professor of marketing and associate chair of the marketing department, is working with IBM to explore how citizens experience and interact with e-government, developing models of government-to-citizen relationships and developing indices for government service quality and citizen engagement.  “E-government is a way to enhance the value of government service to citizens,” says Wagner. “By strengthening government-to-citizen relationships, e-government can increase citizens’ participation in the democratic process.”  

P.K. Kannan, Harvey K. Sanders Associate Professor of Marketing and director of CES, is working with Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), a Taiwanese think tank, to develop service models for insurance companies in an effort to control health care costs and diminish the economic cost of chronic diseases in Taiwan. CES is also working on service science management and engineering initiatives and benchmarking in the customer management area, says Kannan.

One of the center’s major ongoing projects is the annual National Technology Readiness Survey (NTRS), a nationwide survey of American adults that provides an in-depth view of consumer beliefs about new technologies. The NTRS also examines consumers’ and employees’ technology vision, usage of technology-based products and services, the impact of the Internet on behavior, cellular phone usage, desired methods of tech support, and the association between peoples’ technology beliefs and their demographics and lifestyles. This year’s survey looks at online content—how people react to various kinds of content, what kinds of content they are they willing to pay for, and the popularity of “green” products and services.

Customer equity has also been a long-term subject of exploration, and publications from CES are helping businesses understand how to make customer equity a strategic focus of the firm. The award-winning customer equity models devised by CES faculty have been successfully applied at corporations worldwide.

The center disseminates its research results through a variety of sources. The Frontiers in Service Conference, sponsored annually by CES, is the world’s leading annual conference on service research. The conference has a global nature and in 2007 drew more than 300 attendees from 41 countries, all of them eager to share ideas and gain new perspective on topics including service marketing, service operations, service human resources, service information technology, e-service, service innovation, and customer relationship management.

The world’s leading journal in the field, Journal of Service Research, is sponsored by CES and was founded by Rust. It recently entered the Social Science Citation Index, which includes only the best academic journals, just seven years after its inception, which is unusually fast. Its first citation report showed it to be the 13th most cited journal out of 64 business journals, an impressive accomplishment for such a relatively young journal.

For more information about CES, please visit the center’s Web site at www.smith.umd.edu/ces/, or contact P.K. Kannan, director of the Center, at pkannan@rhsmith.umd.edu.

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