About the Nature of Services

About the Nature of Services

Adamantios Koumpis (ALTEC Information & Communication Systems S.A., Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-683-9.ch002
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Here the author elaborates on the intangible nature of services – and how it materializes to tangible commodities and results. The aim of this chapter is to increase the awareness of the reader regarding the complexities related to even simple forms of services that we regard as trivial. Five propositions are presented upon which the proposed service development framework and the underlying processes are built; all five of them are also related with corresponding problem areas in the real world and the markets. Two sections are devoted respectively to the nowadays more increasingly and intensively faced step changes in the conceptualisation of services and the e-services iceberg.
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First Proposition

The metaphors and the various types of conceptual schemas and mental representations that peopleeither as individuals or as members of a teamuse for carrying out most types of service development tasks, spanning from relatively ‘simple’ and ‘straightforward’ ones to those we tend to regard as more abstract, sophisticated or complex, have an increased significance to the ways these tasks are carried out, to the practices that are developed for carrying out these services, as well as to the overall ‘culture’ that characterizes them.

I use three different terms interchangeably – and the aim is to exploit the semantic ‘additivity’ caused by joining their notions. What I support here is that:

What we tend to call or recognize as:

  • Either metaphors

  • Or conceptual schemas

  • Or mental representations

and which people use for practicing service development tasks which again span:
  • From ‘simple’ and ‘straightforward’

  • To ‘more abstract, sophisticated or complex’

are forming an important part of the (relative) success that people have in performing these tasks.

This success, again, may refer:

  • Either to the actual level of e.g. physical performance of an action as part of a service development process

  • Or to some practice that is developed for performing that particular action

  • Or, finally, to the ‘culture’ that underlies this particular service related activity.

I call this first proposition Existence proposition, as it makes the assumption that there exists this linkage between mental abstractions and people’s tasks as an organic part of a service development process. Causality or dependency relationships are of further interest, as the main point to be examined here is whether this claim is holding in actual – or not.

Regarding this aspect, a researcher has stated more than 10 years ago that since (the now regarded as legendary) “Visicalc’s metaphorical ledger and the Xerox Star’s desktop metaphor, interface designers have been incorporating metaphors into user interfaces. User interface (UI) guidelines for most of the popular operating systems encourage the use of metaphors in interface design. They suggest that applications should build on the user’s real-world experience by exploiting concrete metaphors thereby making applications easier to use. Surprisingly little research supports the popular belief that metaphors in user interfaces facilitate performance.” (Smilowitz, 1996)

In her research, Smilowitz explored the use of metaphors in interface design, concentrating on the case of World Wide Web and the Web browsers at a time that much of what we nowadays consider as cliché did not even exist at all. This tremendously increases the value of her work in regard to the future implications in what we tend to call as digital economy. Having conducted a series of experiments, she came up with the conclusion that though User Interface metaphors can facilitate users’ interactions, however, various metaphors are not equally effective, some are no better than non-metaphoric interfaces.

Again I think it is important to emphasise that having in mind the time that her research appeared (late 1996) and how the Zeitgeist was at that time, her investigation on issues such as the integrality of a particular metaphor are important and support the appropriateness of the posed research questions.


Second Proposition

With the use of such appropriate metaphors, conceptual schemas and mental representations, which appertain to a particular service or service related task, being able to ‘serve’ it and sufficiently express its characteristics and idiosyncrasies, it is possible to improve substantially the way service development is executed, no matter how abstract, complex, complicated, sophisticated or detailed this is.

This second proposition – I call it Improvement proposition as its central meaning is that:

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