Does standardized service fit all?: Novel service encounter in frontline employee-customer interface

John Lai, Steven S. Lui, Hiu Ying Hon

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the nature of the novel service encounter with reference to three research questions: first, what kind of creative acts do frontline employees undertake during a novel service encounter? Second, how does the novel service encounter correlate with service innovation? Third, how does it vary in different market environments? The novel service encounter refers to creative acts undertaken by frontline staff working at the employee-customer interface. These acts are important sources of new ideas for service innovation and demand systematic study.Design/methodology/approach – Methods in this study are triangulated by combining interviews, field observations and a survey to develop an observation template for examining the creative acts undertaken by frontline employees during service encounters in an international tourist apparel retailer.Findings – This paper provides initial empirical evidence of the process of the novel service encounter and highlights the use of participant observation as a useful methodology.Originality/value – This paper contributes to the service innovation literature by examining the novel service encounter using an observation template that takes into account its process-driven nature. It is suggested that improvisation by frontline employees during the service encounter is crucial to innovation, and a standardized service does not fit every situation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1341-1363
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2014


  • Creativity
  • Customer service
  • Frontline staff
  • Improvisation
  • Method triangulation
  • Participant observation
  • Retail outlets
  • Service encounter
  • Service innovation
  • Services marketing
  • Standardized service
  • Tourists

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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