My main problem with the service logic perspective (or service logic thinking, or service-dominant logic or critical service logic, or whatever you would like to call it) is that every discussion I have read or participated in is highly academic. With “highly academic” I mean that a lot of words that I do not fully understand are used extensively. Thus, I do not learn anything from the discussion. Every once in a while I put the time and effort in to try to understand such highly academic discussions. The main driving force for me to try to understand this is that I get annoyed by the idea that a bunch of smart people are discussing something, and probably make a lot of wise conclusions, but that their valuable knowledge is not passed on to the rest of humanity. That sounds like so much waste to me! This post is a documentation of one of those efforts to understand a highly academic discussion, namely Vargo and Lusch’s (2008) foundational premises of service-dominant logic, with the proposed changes from Grönroos and Voima (2012). I will do this by analyzing the UX design industry (as I know it) in relation to the ten foundational premises.

My goal with this analysis is to

  1. figure out the practical consequences that embracing each of the foundational premises would have on my work as a UX designer, and
  2. start a discussion about how well the UX design industry actually embraces service logic thinking.

Performing an analysis on the UX design industry is not straightforward, mainly because of the problematic characteristics of the UX design industry. The analysis will treat the B2C and the B2B services separately when needed.

Analysis

Please note that the analysis is based on the foundational premises from Vargo and Lusch, 2008 (there are many versions out there).

FP1 Service is the fundamental basis of exchange

I understand the purpose of this premise to establish common ground for people discussing how to create a better customer experience. It lays the foundation to understanding what drives people to consume a service. I cannot really see any practical consequence of embracing this premise for me as a UX designer.

FP2 Indirect exchange masks the fundamental basis of exchange

This premise seems to me to be more of an explanation why some people might not agree to FP1. Thus I cannot really see any practical consequence of embracing this premise for me as a UX designer.

FP3 Goods are a distribution mechanism for service provision

So this premise also seems to give an explanation why some people might not agree to FP1. What about products? We exchange products all the time, and they’re not services, right? Well, here I actually do see an important practical consequence for the B2C service as a UX designer. At first it might seem philosophical (and thus not so concrete), but I’ll try to make my point clear. If you do embrace this premise you believe that owning the product itself is not the final purpose for someone to buy it. Instead, you believe that the people buying the product thinks that they can use the product in order to do/experience something (that we might define as a service). So what? Well, as Kristensson (2014) points out, this insight will drive you to try to better understand the whole process, where our product is just a small part. And this opens up possibilities for innovations that better suit the users.

This in turn has major consequences for the B2B process. When a client wants us to work on a product of theirs it is very often the case that they do not have this perspective. Rather, they think that making us redesign (a part of) their product will make the user experience so much better that their problems will be handled. Thus, they will not let us work more broadly, and we can’t use our full potential. This shows the importance of becoming better at making our clients understand the importance of this shift in mindset.

FP4 Operant resources are the fundamental source of competitive advantage

To me, the term “operant resources” is very difficult to get a grip of. It seems as Vargo and Lusch (2008) define it as knowledge and skills. In itself I do not see how this premise lead to any practical conclusions for my work as a UX designer. I can’t say that I find it very specific to the service logic perspective either. I mean, knowledge and skill is what let us produce anything of importance, isn’t it?

Of course, in combination with the other premises the intention is to point out that we need knowledge of the users’ value-creation processes, and that certain skills are needed to acquire that knowledge, and yet other skills to make something out of that knowledge. Looking at the B2C service of UX design I would say that this is one of the big problems of our industry. Firstly, we have the fact of the unclear definition of UX design. This means that different UX designers are going to have totally different skills. Secondly, there is the individual skill level of each UX designer. This is of course nothing specific for the UX design industry, but this fact further amplifies the effects of the first statement. This gives us a problem in the B2B process. The term UX designer can mean so many different things, and the result of making use of a UX designer can vary broadly. So here I believe that the UX design industry has a clear challenge with respect to the B2B process.

FP5 All economies are service economies

This one more premise that I feel have more of a theoretical importance. I cannot really see any practical consequence of embracing this premise for me as a UX designer.

FP6 The customer is the value creator

This premise again points out the limited influence that the service provider has on the true value that the customer experience. Within the B2C service this is basically a call for involving users in the design process and performing user research. With regards to the B2B service this is yet another problematic part of the UX design industry. When discussing the problem of multiple concurrent service delivery I mentioned that a lot of people that I work with in the B2B process don’t embrace the service logic perspective. I believe that this fact make it harder for us to embrace this premise with regards to the B2B service. When we’re not wanted, it’s not always easy to keep up the positive attitude.

FP7 The firm is a facilitator of value for the customer

I took the freedom to cite just part of the premise in the heading. The full premise according to Grönroos and Voima (2012) is: “Fundamentally, by providing potential value the firm is a facilitator of value for the customer. Provided that the firm can engage with its customers’ value-creating processes during direct interaction, it has opportunities to co-create value jointly with them as well. The firm is not restricted to making value propositions only, but has an opportunity to directly and actively influence its customers’ value creation as well.”

To me this is a call for involving users in the design process and performing user research. Just as for FP6 this is what many UX designers aim to do, but again, I believe that we should think about how to fully embrace it also in the B2B service. How can we involve our customer in offering them better services? Why do we often have so much difficulty making them understand why we need knowledge about the users’ value-creation process? What can we do to understand their value-creation process?

FP8 A service-centered view is inherently customer oriented and relational

Yet one more call for involving users in the design process and performing user research. The same comments as for FP 6 and 7 are valid.

FP9 All social and economic actors are resource integrators

I honestly have no idea what this means. And I can’t make any sense of the explanation in Vargo and Lusch (2008) either. Too bad. I’m sure it’s something smart.

FP10 Value is accumulating throughout the customer’s value-creating process

And “Value is always uniquely and both experientially and contextually perceived and determined by the customer” (Grönroos and Voima, 2012).

Yet one more call for involving users in the design process and performing user research. The same comments as for FP 6 and 7 are valid.

Conclusions

The UX industry is divided. Some are highly active in trying to embrace this perspective. Most of these people do not use the terminology that is being used in these academic discussions, but the essence of their work process are in line with my understanding of this perspective. But the UX industry also includes a lot of people that do not embrace this perspective. These people mainly works by designing services that seem cool at a glance. But there’s no knowledge about how they support the users in their value-creating process. This kind of UX work can be performed by either someone that (due to her background) isn’t embracing the service logic perspective or by someone that does embrace it but is asked to do it by someone who does not. This last scenario puts the UX designer in a difficult position. She is asked to perform something that isn’t according to what she believes is needed in the B2C service. But as part of the B2B service she needs to do what the customer asks for. So why is it so hard for us to increase the demand for UX design that actually embraces the service logic perspective? I think the answer to that lies in this post, written by myself. I wrote it as a means to understand Vargo and Lusch (2008), Grönroos and Voima (2012) and Kristensson (2014). Even though it has brought some clarity to my own understanding, I don’t think that many readers made it all the way down here…

So what do we need to do?

  1. Get better at making the customers of the B2B service embrace the service logic perspective, understanding what it means and what major shift in mindset is needed by everyone in the organization.
  2. Define a clear taxonomy that better communicates better what kind of activities and mindset different UX designers work with.
  3. Keep a positive attitude when trying to make our B2B clients embrace the service logic perspective.
  4. Find better ways to understand the value-creation process of our B2B clients. This is further discussed in my post about value co-creation in the UX design industry.
  5. Find better ways to involve our B2B clients in our provider sphere.

Sources

Kristensson, P. (2014), “Service Logic”. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=22&v=gO5XvtywTRI.

Vargo, S. and Lusch, R. (2008), “Service-dominant logic: Continuing the evolution”,  Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 36 No.1, pp. 1-10. Available at http://www.sdlogic.net/Vargo_and_Lusch_2008_JAMS_Continuing.pdf.

Grönroos, C. and Voima, P. (2012), “Critical service logic: Making sense of value creation and co-creation”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Vol. 41 No. 2, pp. 133-150. Avaialable at http://www.researchgate.net/publication/256395545_Critical_Service_Logic_Making_Sense_of_Value_Creation_and_Co-creation/file/504635232cc76f395a.pdf.


3 thoughts on “Do UX designers truly embrace the service logic perspective?


  • Pingback: Value co-creation in the UX design industry | Thoughts on Design

  • By Max Liedström Kvelland - Reply

    Read it! Very interesting, I appreciate the effort you put into this write-up. I wish I had something more inspiring to say than “you missed formatting FP5 as a header”, but I’ve yet to understand much of this myself.

    • By Jonatan Wentzel - Reply

      I hope my post at least helped you towards understanding, rather than confusing you 🙂

      Thanks for pointing out the formatting! I appreciate it!

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