Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to identify research themes in service operations that have great potential for exciting and innovative conceptual and empirical work. To frame these research themes, the paper provides a systematic literature review of operations articles published in the Journal of Service Management (JOSM). The thorough review of published work in JOSM and proposed research themes are presented in hopes that they will inspire impactful research on service operations. These themes are further developed in a companion paper, “Service operations: what’s next?” (Field et al., 2018).
Design/methodology/approach: The JOSM Service Operations Expert Research Panel conducted a Delphi study to generate research themes where leading-edge research on service operations is being done or has yet to be done. Nearly 700 articles published in JOSM from its inception through 2016 were reviewed and classified by discipline focus. The subset of service operations articles was then further categorized according to the eight identified research themes plus an additional category that primarily represented traditional manufacturing approaches applied in service settings.
Findings: From the Delphi study, the following key themes emerged: service supply networks, evaluating and measuring service operations performance, understanding customer and employee behavior in service operations, managing servitization, managing knowledge-based service contexts, managing participation roles and responsibilities in service operations, addressing society’s challenges through service operations, and the operational implications of the sharing economy. Based on the literature review, approximately 20 percent of the published work in JOSM is operations focused, with earlier articles predominantly applying traditional manufacturing approaches in service settings. However, the percentage of these traditional types of articles has been steadily decreasing, suggesting a trend toward dedicated research frameworks and themes that are unique to the design and management of services operations.
Originality/value: The paper presents key research themes for advancing conceptual and empirical research on service operations. Additionally, a review of the past and current landscape of operations articles published in JOSM offers an understanding of the scholarly conversation so far and sets a foundation from which to build future research.