Doctoral dissertation

Transferred to a remote connection - Customer involvement helps industrial companies to choose the right service strategies

Markus Jähi
Although customer involvement in developing individual services is a rather well-known phenomenon, it is not clear how customer involvement can benefit the development of the entire firm service portfolio, which is a more strategic and complex issue.

The main objective of Markus Jähi’s research is to provide new understanding of how industrial service providers can benefit from customer involvement in developing their service portfolio. The study focuses on the entire service portfolio instead of the individual services of industrial firms.

In particular, it is not well understood how customer involvement can promote the different ways through which contemporary industrial firms develop their services. In the industrial setting, the portfolio perspective is especially important because firms not only develop individual services but also pursue service-based growth strategies and business models with their customers. Theoretically, the study is positioned at the intersection of the partly overlapping research fields of service growth (i.e., servitization), new service development, and customer involvement.

At the center of this study are four generic offering development modes through which industrial service providers can develop their service portfolio: 1) refining basic services portfolio, 2) promoting customer service elements, 3) developing more complete offerings, and 4) extending portfolios with advanced services. The study focuses on how different customer involvement forms can be applied within these offering development modes. The study looks at customer involvement in a business-to-business (B2B) service setting. B2B services are those that help other organizations to achieve their goals. In the industrial context, service portfolios typically cover a wide selection of B2B services ranging from basic maintenance and logistics services to advanced data-enabled services and consulting. Industrial firms also bundle services together to form more complete service packages and solutions.

This research was conducted as a qualitative multiple case study. The findings of the study are based on the exploration of three cases—SCALE, DEVICE, and FLOW—that cover a focal firm (i.e., service provider) and a selection of 6–7 business customers in each case. All focal firms were industrial service providers that supplied a diverse selection of industrial business services. The participating customers represented different industrial branches, such as manufacturing, energy, and heavy industries. The primary data was gathered through semi-structured, indepth interviews.

This study illustrates that industrial service providers can benefit from customer involvement in different ways in all four offering development modes studied. Customer involvement can provide valuable contributions to issues, such as customer service elements and interfaces, service packaging and standardization, interorganizational collaboration and development partnerships, and improving existing services. Of these, especially the first three have received only minor attention in earlier research. To the service growth literature, the study contributes by showing that customers can contribute to the definition of service transitions, trajectories, and offering dimensions. Moreover, a service strategy explains how different firms apply customer involvement. For the new service development and customer involvement literatures, this research provides new knowledge by illustrating the strategic nature of knowledge that originates from customer involvement. Customer involvement can contribute to important innovation dimensions, such as customer interfaces and service delivery system, and this knowledge may remain underutilized if customer involvement is strongly focused on only individual services. In addition, to fully benefit from customer involvement, industrial service firms need to utilize versatile customer involvement forms in both an explorative and exploitative manner in portfolio development. For the managers of industrial firms, the study provides new knowledge and recommendations for involving customers in service portfolio development when outlining service-driven growth strategies.

Markus Jähi's Doctoral dissertation Customer Involvement in Industrial Service Portfolio Development will be publicly examined in the Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences at Tampere University on Friday, March 27, 2020 at 12 o'clock.

Because of the coronavirus, Tampere University’s dissertation defences are not organised as public events. However, it is possible to follow the public examinations via a remote connection.

The opponent will be Professor Maria Holmlund-Rytkönen (Hanken Svenska handelshögskolan). The Custos will be Professor Miia Martinsuo from Tampere University.


The dissertation is available online at http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-03-1503-0