Meet the editor of... the Journal of Service Management
An interview with: Bo Edvardsson
In this interview
Professor Bo Edvardsson is a Director of the Services Research Center (CTF), Department of Business and Economics at Karlstad University in Sweden. He has been editor of the journal since August 2004, having been handpicked as the leader in the field by the previous editor, Professor Jos Lemmink of Maastricht, and is an international authority in the field of service management, having managed several important projects and also written or contributed to over 130 books, reports and research articles.His research is in the areas of service management and marketing, service quality, customer relationship dynamics (focusing on Critical Incident & Directive Incident studies), new service development, and service culture and service strategy.
The Journal of Service Management (JOSM) was published as the International Journal of Service Industry Management (IJSIM) until 2009 when it was re-launched under a new name with a revised editorial scope. It is a top journal in the field of service management research. Its approach is cross-functional, interdisciplinary and international and it covers all the main areas of "for profit" service management – finance, transport, tourism, hotel and catering – and, to a lesser extent, the "not for profit" service sectors of health, welfare and public administration. Its main remit is to communicate empirical research on service management on issues of relevance across the field such as quality, the service environment, technological applications and development, customer satisfaction, the service environment, and performance measurement, with the aim of exchanging information on key issues and guidance on the practical implications of current thinking and research.
What made you take on the role?
It wasn't something you could say "no" to: it was an attractive offer and one with plenty of scope for career development. I had been in the field for some time and it fitted in well with my current role as Director of the Services Research Centre at Karlstad.
How would you like to shape the journal over the next five years?
I would like to develop the whole area of services management research, and continue to emphasize the journal's global and multidisciplinary perspective. Beyond that I would like to continue to publish articles that are scientifically rigorous but which also have managerial relevance. I would also like to encourage new topics and new fields – particularly business to business services, services in manufacturing, e-services, service experience management and human resources, which is a huge area.
Would it be fair to say that this is essentially a research journal?
Yes, it is essentially a research journal but the managerial implications of the research are also very important.
How do you ensure that the research you publish remains relevant to those in practice, who may not always have time to sift through the detail of research findings?
All members of the international editorial board are top scholars and they provide top class reviews and many of them have some sort of practical experience as consultants. We also require that every article has a section on the managerial implications of the research.
You refer to the journal as being a "multidisciplinary information resource" – can you give an indication of the range of disciplines which authors come from?
From the management field, services marketing, services operations management, and human resources are the most common; from outside management, we have had contributions also from scholars in geography and psychology.
Can you give examples of how the cross fertilization of ideas between service industries has been beneficial to particular service sectors?
There have been a number of studies on service quality across different industries, which has shown up both similarities and differences. When we assess the quality of services across industries, we tend to use the same norms. There are many similarities across these norms, and the problems tend to be much the same. You see the differences when you come to look at implementation. The public sector in particular can learn a lot from the private sector.
What proportion of your authors are practitioners, and do these in practice tend to be consultants?
We have very few practitioners. We have about 5-8 per cent who are consultants or executives, perhaps working with academics. The rest are academics, many of whom also work as consultants.
How do you foster an international dimension and do you prefer the research you report on to be cross-boundary?
A high proportion of manuscripts came from authors in India, China, Taiwan and elsewhere in South-East Asia. Many of the articles are cross-disciplinary, for example I recently wrote something in conjunction with an operations management expert from Warwick University. As far as crossing national boundaries, most articles will address issues in a specific country.
How do we make sure that we attract an international spectrum of authors? Well, it's really a matter of being active and visible in particular networks, such as the American Marketing Association special interest group for services – ServSig – and attending international conferences, seminars and workshops. We also have a very good network in Europe, and our centre has its own newsletter.
What are some of the key issues and emerging themes coming out of service management research?
Experience of services that touch people emotionally, and that can't be measured in cognitive terms. Services in manufacturing, especially mechanical engineering companies: for example, Scania is looking at ways it can create value through its services, and integrate products in service concepts. Products become platforms for services which create customer value. Thus it does not just produce trucks, but rather creates value through a transportation system. Then there's technology infusion in services, and the question of how ready customers are, for example purchasing services through self service technologies such as the Internet.
Looking back over recent articles (or maybe over some forthcoming ones) what do you think are some of the more interesting methodologies that you have seen?
There's the SPAT technique which is a Switching Path Analysis Technique, a way of mapping a customer's path away from a particular service provider because of e.g. unmet needs [SPAT is a variant of the Critical Incident Technique]. SPAT is developed by Inger Roos associate professor at CTF. This may mean that they have new needs, such as for example they now have a child which changes their buying behaviour. Or it can be that the service is no longer as good and doesn't respond to their needs in the same way. I have written on this topic with Inger Roos, who has also written about it in Journal of Service Research.
Which are the top universities in the world for service industries research?
Most universities don't have a particular emphasis on services research. The leading place in the US is Center for Services Leadership at Arizona State's W.P. Carey School of Business, also the University of Maryland has a Centre for E-Services, the "e" referring not just to electronic, but to "excellent" as well.
In Europe, the main centres are at the universities of Maastricht, and Karlstad, where we have the CTF. At the CTF we have 49 scholars and doctoral students.
As far as groups and individuals are concerned, the University of Warwick has a group of scholars researching in the area of services operations management, as has "Center for Relationship Marketing and Service Management" at Swedish school of business Administration and economics, Helskinki in Finland. CTF coordinates an international network of such groups – International Academy of Service research and Education (IASRE): the main criteria to be part of the network are that the universities must do courses at masters' level, a group of active scholars publishing in international scientific journals and that there should also be opportunities for study at doctoral level.
You state that "articles should be based on empirical data, qualitative or quantitative". What approach should authors take to reporting the methodology?
It's very important to use a methodology that's established and to report how you have used it. If you are developing a methodology in a new way, then you need to make a good argument for this; you need to justify what you have done and demonstrate the validity of your approach.
I definitely don't agree that some types of methodology are more rigorous and scientific than others. Those who say that qualitative methodologies are not scientific probably don't understand them, they are too immersed in quantitative research. It's the scholarly community that decides what is good or not. What is published in a quality journal is by definition good research.
You state that you consider papers "reporting practical experience". Do you refer here to case studies? What would you consider to be the hallmarks of a good article of this type?
These are mostly surveys, although there are some case studies. It's very important to have empirical data. The methodology should be clearly described in such a way that the study could be repeated and tested. You don't need to go into all details of the statistical analysis – everybody will know what you mean by terms such as structural equation modelling and regression analysis, but you do need to say how you used it and how you have dealt with different challenges in your specific case.
What proportion of your articles cover the "not for profit" sector?
Not many. We need some more.
Do you ever have issues on particular themed topics, or guest edited, and what are your plans over the forthcoming 18 months?
At least once a year we have a special themed issue. Next year  we will be having two special issues: Issue 2 will be a collection of articles from a symposium, QUIS, Quality in Services, and Issue 4 will be on service outsourcing.
We have one call outstanding: the ServSig Conference in Singapore, June 2-4, organized by the American Marketing Association in conjunction with the National University of Singapore (see Vol. 17 No. 2).
In terms of market position, would you say that Services Industry Journal was your nearest rival, and what differentiates you?
Our nearest rival is the Journal of Services Research, published by Sage, which is very similar, and is based in the USA. It's not ISI [Thomson Scientific] rated, but it's considered to be very good in the USA. American institutions also rank journals as A, B, C, D. "A" journals are just the really top ones in the field; in marketing that would include the Journal of Marketing, the Journal of Consumer Research, and the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. There are about five to ten B journals, which often include both the Journal of Services Research and Journal of Service Management . That is good for us as the US market is so important, and academics will tend to go for the higher quality journals because being promoted to associate professor depends on their getting a certain number of articles published (this can be up to eight in the top schools, or just one in others).
In the UK, young academics are trying to balance a heavy teaching and research load, in the USA, their main concern is to secure tenure. What are the key challenges facing academics, particularly in the management area, in the Nordic countries?
They do have a lot of challenges. In the USA, young tenure track academics have more time to do research. In the Nordic countries, they have to fight for money and time to do research, and they often get caught up in teaching and administration. [UK readers – does this sound familiar?!]
My advice to young academics would be to try and stay in a particular area and publish a stream of articles in that area. Also, try and get three articles from your dissertation. Then I strongly recommend the co-authoring of articles. It's also important to learn the technology of article writing.
One of the main difficulties facing young academics trying to get published is to find a journal which is right for their particular approach. Do you have any advice on this? Would you encourage authors to make direct contact with you, to enquire whether their material is suitable?
Read the journal very carefully, particularly their guidelines and a couple of articles. Many of the journals published by Emerald are top quality and require a highly developed theoretical framework and research that is based on a lot of data. If you don't have enough data or your theoretical framework is not sufficiently rigorous, you would be better off going for a less exalted journal.
As for making direct contact with myself as editor, I would advise people in the first instance to familiarize themselves with the journal in the way I have described above, and also talk to a colleague whom they trust and who has experience of the journal, or a member of the editorial board if they know them.
What percentage of submissions do you reject outright, what percentage go to reviewers, and what percentage end up being published?
I desk reject about half the submissions I receive. The rest go to three peer reviewers, who have three months to carry out the review. They will make suggestions for how to improve the article which will then go back to the author for further development work. The article will then go back for a second review and will then be either accepted or rejected. The number of articles that end up getting accepted out of those submitted is about 10-15%.
Assuming that an article is in the latter category, how long does it take, on average, between submitting a manuscript and publication?
It varies, but about 8-12 months on average.
How can the double blind review process be managed to ensure quality whilst at the same time avoiding the negative effects which often cause anxiety to authors, such as unconstructive, negative or just vague comments?
We provide guidelines in the form of a series of headings for people to follow. But mainly we have very good scholars on our review board.
What advice can you give to authors on dealing with reviewers' comments and on revising their papers at this stage?
Read every sentence and respond to every suggestion. When you resubmit your article, provide a table with the reviewers' comments down one side and your own opposite. You may not agree with everything that the reviewer says, but if you don't, state your reasons. Respect reviewers' comments: sometimes they misunderstand things, but not often.
Do you have authors who have problems with English, and how do you overcome this?
I would recommend having the manuscript language corrected before submitting it to the journal.
Looking through the IJSIM outstanding paper, "Service failures away from home: benefits in intercultural service encounters", I think in many respects it represents a model of good writing – it's well organized, you get a feel for the research just by glancing through it, the introduction is superb (although I believe that the right publication date for Around the World in 80 Days is 1872, not 1956!), the language is easy to read. What can be done to encourage authors to write well?
Read well-written articles, and consult people who are good writers. In the USA, it's actually possible to find people who specialize in helping to write articles – they are journalists by training with no specific expertise in the subject but skill in writing.
The guidelines encourage authors to keep their graphic and tabular material to the minimum, but in practice, isn't correct use of these valid and incidentally can serve to break up a lot of dense textual material?
I would not agree with the guidelines here. Graphic and tabular material are fine providing they are used wisely and have some sort of textual explanation and reference.
Getting something published is only the first step in dissemination. What advice would you give to authors on continuing to ensure that their work becomes known to their peers?
Writing a book – if you have enough to say – may have more impact than an article. You should also go to international conferences and make sure you are part of the international research community.
- Some of these ideas are explored in the article, "Managing the transition from products to services", by Rogelio Oliva and Robert Kallenberg, International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 14 No. 2, 2003, pp. 160-72.
- Some of these ideas are explored in the article, "Technology-enabled service delivery: an investigation of reasons affecting customer adoption and rejection", by Rhett H Walker, Margaret Craig-Lees, Robert Hecker and Heather Francis, International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 13 No. 1, 2002, pp. 91-106.
- See "Critical incident techniques: towards a framework for analysing the criticality of critical incidents", by Bo Edvardsson and Inger Roos, International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 12 No. 3, 2001, pp. 251-68.
- The ranking is not fixed, but varies according to institution: the top institutions will include only the journals in the "A" category, but other institutions may include some more.
Professor Bo Edvardsson was originally interviewed in 2004. The interview was revised in May 2009.
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