Facilitating, enabling and evolving : the role of actor engagement platforms in complex service settings

Alexander, Matthew and Blasco-Arcas, Lorena and Chen, Tom and Jonas, Julia and Raithel, Sascha and Sörhammar, David (2017) Facilitating, enabling and evolving : the role of actor engagement platforms in complex service settings. In: 5th Naples Forum on Services, 2017-06-06 - 2017-06-09, Grand Hotel Cocumella.

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Abstract

Purpose – Recent research on ‘engagement’ captures the blurring of traditional roles such ‘firms’ and ‘customers’ within contemporary business settings (Jaakkola & Alexander, 2014). However, despite a growing corpus of research in consumer settings, research on engagement between business actors, 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 our research, we explore how business actor engagement is manifested within complex service systems and explore how engagement platforms (EP) can play a role in facilitating B2B engagement.Design/Methodology/approach – Our research focusses on: platform mechanisms that enable business actor engagement; perceived benefits for engaged actors; and the role of resources and effect of time on both platform and process. Our longitudinal study is based on JOSEPHS®, an offline engagement platform in Nuremberg, Germany. Data includes in-depth interviews, focus groups, social media data, alongside longitudinal observations, field notes and diaries. JOSEPHS® has been established for 2.5 years and operates in consecutive 3 month cycles with different business actors taking part in each phase. Our longitudinal data set, therefore allows analysis both within and across the various operational phases and from the various stakeholders that interact in the service system.Findings – Findings center on three configurations of business actor engagement within the JOSEPHS® EP. These configurations represent a range of structured, semi-structured and unstructured interactions on the EP which involve a wide range of stakeholders which include JOSEPHS staff, existing, past and future clients and other business actors, such as local business representatives and invited speakers. We offer insight into EP mechanisms and the longitudinal benefits across operational phases. The EP supports engagement both within and across phases. Originality/value – The facilitating role of an EP creates a business with business (BwB) setting where business actors benefit from expertise of both the platform and other engaged actors. Our research implies that, in complex business settings, actors may be reluctant to ‘engage’ in ways we currently understand. BwB engagement may require, or be best suited to, more formalized structures. Our research also addresses the temporal property of engagement, showing how the platform itself learns and evolves as a result of engagement with the various stakeholders.