Technology as a Driver for Changing Customer-Provider Interfaces in Industrial Service Production

Christian Kowalkowski
Department of Management and Engineering, Linköping University, Sweden

Per-Olof Brehmer
Department of Management and Engineering, Linköping University, Sweden

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Publicerad: 2008-02-15


ISSN: 1650-3686 (tryckt), 1650-3740 (online)


The trend in manufacturing firms towards the provision of services related to the produced goods has been highlighted by several authors (e.g. Henkel et al.; 2004; Howells; 2004). Services can be critical for nurturing the customer relationship and for enabling more sophisticated; process-orientated offerings with higher margins than product sales (Mathieu; 2001; Oliva and Kallenberg; 2003). Besides; new industrial services represent a key source of growth for many firms (de Brentani; 1995). However; when analyzing the service operations of manufacturers it is not enough to focus on the internal service organization (e.g. front and back office) as the customer also is a source of product inputs (Hill; 1977); and a participant in the service production process (Grönroos and Ojasalo; 2004). New technology is an important driver for new offerings and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) applications can be used to improve manufacturing firms’ existing service processes and develop new; more advanced services and solutions (Kowalkowski; forthcoming). ICT may initiate a radical transformation of traditional customer-provider interfaces (Nambisan; 2002) and the firm’s internal service processes through standardization (Sundbo; 1994). Nevertheless; the impact of ICT on industrial service processes is insufficiently examined as most studies do not focus on B2B relationships (cf. Ritter and Walter; 2006) and if so; focus is often on product salesmen; not on service personnel (e.g. Hunter and Perreault; 2007; Ledingham et al.; 2006; Tanner and Shipp; 2005). This paper fills this gap by exploring how ICT is affecting and driving changing service processes and customer interfaces of capital goods manufacturers. A framework for analyzing service organizations developed by Larsson and Bowen (1989) serves as the theoretical basis of this study and two in-depth case studies illustrate the phenomenon.


Service processes; Industrial services; Customer-provider relationships; Front office; Back office; Information and communication technologies


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