Technology-Based Self-Service (TBSS) Innovations in B2B Settings: An Abstract
Contemporary services innovations regularly come embedded in both information technology (IT) and organizational arrangements. (Ostrom et al., 2015, page 127) capture this current trend: “The context in which service is delivered and experienced has, in many respects, fundamentally changed. Advances in technology, especially information technology, are leading to a proliferation of revolutionary services and changing how customers serve themselves before, during, and after purchase.” Research that especially focuses on the integration of technology in the service system has been labeled self-service technology (SST) and technology-based self-service (TBSS). Breidback et al. (2012) did further add that most services will be a mix of technology and human-based interaction, what they label “technology-enabled value co-creation.” Following this research stream, less high-tech and service-oriented companies will meet challenges when introducing innovative services given that these services both require technical know-how and a market-oriented mindset. By acknowledging the socio-technical and social-material aspects of current service innovation, it is possible to unbundle activities from the physical restraints and open up innovation opportunities, facilitating a more customized rebundling of the service innovation to facilitate enhanced customer value. The vast majority of TBSS studies have focused on consumer markets which partly can be explained by the fact that business-to-business (B2B) companies have been late adopters. The main reason can be that B2B markets to a higher degree are few-to-few rather than many-to-many markets, the substantial cost of partner specific investments, as well as the overall complex linkages and process in B2B relationships. While prior studies have seen TBSS as an addition in firms’ value proposition portfolio, this study puts an emphasis on considering the TBSS as an innovation in a conservative B2B market context. It adopts a service-dominant (S-D) logic perspective on innovation and puts forth the research questions: (a) What capabilities do firms need when developing TBSS innovations and (b) what sort of institutional work they engage in. The study is carried out as an explorative and longitudinal field study of Humlegården Fastigheter AB (a real estate firm that only have commercial tenants and that introduced a TBSS in 2012) and its suppliers and customers. Humlegården Fastigheter AB is a “Prime Mover” as they developed a TBSS in the real estate and facility industry where new services are rare. The results show how such firms will need to acquire and develop several capacities when striving for new value propositions. The study offers an emergent theory on how a TBSS innovation engages actors in the service ecosystem and pinpoints the forms of institutional work a focal actor needs to carry out to change the service ecosystem’s actors’ cognitive framework, current norms, as well as comply with regulations.