Systemising Service Classifications

Systemising Service Classifications

Autor_innen: Michael Becker, Martin Böttcher, Stephan Klingner

XXI. International RESER Conference


In past decades services were in the focus of many works from the academic literature. One common approach for gaining strategic insights about services is to classify them according to different characteristics. Using these classifications it is possible to develop recommendations for action for specific service types. However, due to the broad range of services and different classification reasons, a plethora of classification approaches exists. More than 10 years ago (Cook et al., 1999) have identified almost 40 classifications.

With our work we want to provide an overview of service classification approaches and contribute to the systematisation of services. This is based on the review of existing classifications. The most important question is to ask for the goals of different classification approaches. The wide area of service research e.g. covers aspects of marketing, operations research, and human service interaction topics.

Furthermore, to facilitate development of new classifications tailored for specific areas of application we want to identify possible classification types i.e. classification clusters and interrelations between different types. Another important question deals with characteristics used for classification. Based on these characteristics we want to identify differences and overlaps between specific classification approaches.

For identifying service classifications we have conducted an extensive literature review over more than 70 existing approaches spanning the period of nearly 100 years of service research. To achieve our objectives we structured the approaches according to their research focus. Loosely speaking, a great amount of approaches focuses the area of marketing studying the impact of customer contact on service design. In addition, existing classifications focus on operations and the service provision process.

Based on the classifications we constituted three groups of characteristics used to classify services. Characteristics of the customer interface describe possible human service interaction scenarios and try to assess the consequences of customer participation in services. Contrary, process characteristics focus on the service provision itself. They try to capture logical, temporal, and local constraints on service delivery. Finally, characteristics of the service result allow for the detailed description of service outputs. One of the best known characteristics in this group for sure is the tangibility of services.

Using these types of characteristics allows for a structured discussion about service classifications. We will use them as a starting point for identifying overlaps and differences between different classifications and to extract important service concepts.
Expected Results

We plan to use the results of our systematic review of service classification in a wide range. First and foremost, we add to the discussion about general service characteristics and recommendations for actions. Since services today are highly complex and of very different nature existing classifications are often not applicable without modifications. Therefore, the analysis of underlying characteristics facilitates the development of relations between complex services and strategic insights from classifications.

Structuring classifications results in the constitution of a catalogue of classification types and characteristics. This catalogue establishes the foundations for a framework for the development of tailored classifications. Thus, we offer service researchers the opportunity to focus on the objectives of their classifications and not on technical and formal questions. Based on the framework we are also able to pose new and upcoming research questions for services by identifying untreated application areas.

(Cook et al., 1999) Cook, D.P., Goh, C.-H., & Chung, C.H. 1999. Service Typologies: A state of the art survey. Production and Operations Management, 8(3), 318–338.

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