Actor engagement platforms : exploring business actor engagement in complex service systems

Blasco, Lorena and Alexander, Matthew and Chen, Tom and Jonas, Julia and Raithel, Sasha and Sörhammar, David (2017) Actor engagement platforms : exploring business actor engagement in complex service systems. In: Frontiers in Service 2017, 2017-06-22 - 2017-06-25, Fordham University.

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The blurring of traditional roles such ‘firms’ and ‘customers’ within contemporary business settings is encapsulated by research on ‘engagement’ (Jaakkola & Alexander, 2014). To date, research mainly focusses on engagement as a “psychological state” (e.g. Brodie et al., 2011) occurring through focal interactive experiences and resource investment by individual customers (Hollebeek et al., 2016). Research on engagement between business actors however, incorporating complex service settings, multiple actors, and touch-points, is still lacking (Wieland et al., 2015). Actor engagement in B2B settings must account for both complex interpersonal relationships and actor interdependence within network settings (e.g., Storbacka et al., 2016). In this paper, we explore how business actor engagement is manifested within complex service systems. We analyze the role of engagement platforms, physical or virtual touch points where actors exchange resources and co-create value in complex service settings (Breidbach et al., 2014) and investigate their role in facilitating B2B engagement. Our research addresses: the platform mechanisms that enable business actor engagement; the perceived benefits for engaged actors; and the role of resources and the effect of time on both platform and the engagement process. Our longitudinal study is based on JOSEPHS®, an offline engagement platform in Nuremberg, Germany. Our data set includes data gathered through in-depth interviews, focus groups, social media data, alongside longitudinal observations, field notes and diaries. Crucially, JOSEPHS® operates as an innovation platform in consecutive 3 month cycles with different business actors taking part in each phase. JOSEPHS® has been established for 2.5 years and data is therefore longitudinal allowing analysis across the various operational phases and from business actors, visitors and the platform employees that interact in the service system. Our study contributes to understanding of engagement within complex business settings in two ways. Firstly, we suggest that the facilitating role of an engagement platform creates a business with business (BwB) setting where business actors benefit from the expertise of both the platform and the other business actors involved. Our research reveals engagement existing both within the platform, created around firms participating in each phase, but even more with businesses from previous phases or the wider network established through the EP, as well as the influence of external actors (i.e. visitors and external business actors). Secondly, we suggest that, in complex business settings, actors may be reluctant to ‘engage’ in ways we currently understand. BwB setting engagement may require, or be dependent on, more formalized structures (which may evolve over time as more actors access the platform). Our research also addresses the temporal property of engagement, showing how the platform itself learns and develops through the evolution process and as a result of engagement with both business actors, employees and visitors.


Blasco, Lorena, Alexander, Matthew ORCID logoORCID:, Chen, Tom, Jonas, Julia, Raithel, Sasha and Sörhammar, David;