|Ph.D Thesis||Department of Industrial Engineering and Management|
|Supervisor:||Prof. Rafaeli Anat|
This research project develops theory and provides empirical findings about the relationship between physical artifacts of organizations and patterns of interactions between customers and service providers. The project makes three key contributions: (1) it suggests and validates the existence of three independent dimensions for analyzing physical artifacts - Instrumentality, aesthetics and symbolism. (2) It suggests and validates the existence of a ‘skeleton' of service interaction scripts which is shown to be conceptually and empirically separate from the ‘tissue' of service interaction scripts. The ‘skeleton script' is the basic script of behavior of participants in a service interaction. ‘Tissue’ of an interaction comprises social behaviors, such as friendliness or willingness to help, which cannot substitute for the skeletal behaviors, but rather follow or accompany them. (3) It tests and confirms hypotheses regarding the influence of physical aspects of the environment on the patterns of interaction between customers and service providers.
The research project integrates 13 separate studies. Qualitative research tools in a field setting served for the development of the theoretical model. Quantitative research tools served for validating theoretical arguments. Controlled experiments served for testing specific predictions. A first experiment investigates the influence of the exterior of buses on the tendency of the passenger to affiliate with the driver. A second experiment examines the impact of the design of a service employees' office on the interaction tendencies of customers in a simulation of a web based service process. Results of these experiments support the model.
The model opens an extensive arena for future research as well as management of service environments, adding to preliminary work in this area such as that of Bitner (1992) who suggested the concept of ‘Servicecapes’.