Exploring business actor engagement in service systems through engagement platforms

Blasco, Lorena and Alexander, Matthew and Chen, Tom and Jonas, Julia and Raithel, Sasha and Sörhammar, David (2017) Exploring business actor engagement in service systems through engagement platforms. In: 15th International Research Symposium on Service Excellence in Management, 2017-06-12 - 2017-06-15, University of Porto.

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Abstract

The blurring of traditional roles such ‘firms’ and ‘customers’ within contemporary business settings is encapsulated by research on ‘engagement’ (Jaakkola and Alexander, 2014). To date, research mainly focusses on engagement as a “psychological state” (e.g. Brodie et al., 2011) occurring through focal interactive experiences. Recent research hereby highlights the importance of resource investment by individual customers (Hollebeek et al., 2016). However, research on engagement between business actors incorporating complex service settings, multiple actors, and touchpoints, is still lacking (Wieland et al., 2015). Storbacka et al (2016), amongst others, forward that actor engagement in B2B settings must account for both complex interpersonal relationships and actor interdependence within network settings. To gain a deeper understanding on engagement in business settings, this article explores how business actor engagement is manifested within complex service systems. We analyse the role of engagement platforms, defined as physical or virtual touchpoints where actors exchange resources and co-create value in complex service settings (Breidbach et al., 2014) as facilitators for B2B engagement. Our research addresses: a) the platform mechanisms that enable business actor engagement; b) the perceived benefits for engaged actors; c) the role of resources and d) 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. Data is longitudinal, including interviews, oberservations and secondary data starting from the early establishment phase of the engagement platform, allowing analysis across the various operational phases. It includes business actors, visitors and the platform employees that interact in the service system. The case study contributes to the understanding of engagement within complex business settings in two ways: a) 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. The analysis of business actor engagement at JOSEPHS contextualises 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). b) Secondly, we derive from the case analysis 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. In the present case, event series were emphasised as a key opportunity to interact with other business actors, initiating business with business engagement. 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. Additionally, the findings of this study highlight the role of staff as enablers of business engagement as well as the impact of the offline nature of the platform. From the discussion of these learnings, we suggest that additional research is also needed to explore how business actors perceive and respond to relational, informational, or motivational benefits on EPs, on a micro level. How these benefits affect a service ecosystem and how they interrelate even on meso, macro may also be of interest to further develop engagement theoretically. KEYWORDS Business actor engagement; service systems; engagement platforms; case study; open living lab;   REFERENCES Breidbach, C., Brodie, R., & Hollebeek, L., (2014), “Beyond virtuality: from engagement platforms to engagement ecosystems”, Managing Service Quality, 24 (6), 592-611 Brodie, R. J., Hollebeek, L. D., Jurić, B., & Ilić, A., (2011), “Customer Engagement: Conceptual Domain, Fundamental Propositions, and Implications for Research”, Journal of Service Research, 14 (3), 252-271 Hollebeek, L. D., Srivastava, R. K., & Chen, T., (2016), “SD logic–informed customer engagement: integrative framework, revised fundamental propositions, and application to CRM”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 1-25 Jaakkola, E., & Alexander, M., (2014). “The Role of Customer Engagement Behavior in Value Cocreation A Service System Perspective”, Journal of Service Research, 17 (3) 247-261 Storbacka, K., Brodie, R. J., Böhmann, T., Maglio, P. P., & Nenonen, S., (2016), “Actor engagement as a microfoundation for value cocreation”, Journal of Business Research, 69 (8), 3008-3017 Wieland, H., Koskela-Huotari, K., & Vargo, S. L., (2015), “Extending actor participation in value creation: an institutional view”, Journal of Strategic Marketing, 24 (3-4), 210-226