At its core, transformative service research (TSR) investigates how services impact the well-being of customers, employees, families, communities and society more broadly. Established service measures such as customer satisfaction, service quality, or behavioral intentions, however, hardly capture the way how services can create “uplifting changes” in the life of employees or customers. Instead, TSR focuses on different – and often novel – outcomes and indicators related to physical, mental, emotional, or financial well-being. Yet, much of TSR-related research is either qualitative or uses measures that are developed and tested in a specific context. The relevance, validity, and portability of those measures across different service settings consequently remains questionable, which often inhibits the generalization of study results and further quantitative empirical substantiation.
Hence, to advance the area of TSR, this research develops an empirically-based service taxonomy using a sample of 558 U.S. customers. With the aim of systematically covering a comprehensive and updated set of services, a list of 90 general consumer services and nine service characteristics (used to classify services) are initially derived based on a literature review of prior service taxonomies and nine interviews with marketing faculty members. Using various qualitative and quantitative cut-off criteria, 57 commonly-used consumer services ultimately built the basis for the development of the service taxonomy. Different factor and cluster-analysis procedures are subsequently performed to derive a service taxonomy that subsumes those 57 services into four distinct service clusters.
To demonstrate the usefulness of the proposed service taxonomy, it is thereafter used to cross-validate the robustness of two scales central to TSR (i.e., customer stress and customer confusion) across multiple service contexts. To this end, this research draws on two additional samples of U.S. consumers (n = 186; n = 1002) and various first-order and second-order analyses, including reliability, convergent, discriminant, and external validity assessments as well as various multi-group assessments. The results provide support for the relevance and portability of both scales across all four service clusters, regardless of whether the services are rather technology-driven, knowledge-intensive, functional, hedonic, or characterized by high or low degrees of customer activity.
The proposed service taxonomy therefore contributes to service research as it can be used by researchers and practitioners to gain strategic and actionable insights into the validity and effects of central TSR constructs across different service settings. In contrast to prior service taxonomies, this taxonomy synthesizes insights of previous conceptual service classification schemes and crucially updates and expands the number of services covered as compared to the other, very few, empirically-derived taxonomies in the marketing literature. In doing so, this research contributes to the empirical substantiation of service and TSR-related research by crucially facilitating corresponding quantitative research efforts.