The Department of Service Management and Service Studies generates new knowledge of what is today one of the pillars of the western world: service provision. The research field is known as service studies and deals with everything from tourism and retail to welfare and entrepreneurship.
In the 1970s, the western world went through a conversion from an industrial to a service-based society. It is this shift from production of goods to production of services that forms the historical starting point of the research field of service studies.
– It is no longer about what you sell, but rather how you sell it. You sell experiences and customer service as much as the actual service offered, says Cecilia Fredriksson, professor responsible for research at the Department of Service Management.
The interdisciplinary research at the department is where fields such as business management, ethnology and human geography meet. Research is conducted in subjects such as leadership, governance and the practice of service provision.
– A critical and analytical perspective is needed on the often implicit conditions that prevail in the service industry. It is therefore extremely important to consider the conditions of work in the service sector, says Cecilia Fredriksson.
Both the production and consumption of services are examined, along with their economic, social and environmental consequences for and in society.
Retail business is central to a city's tourism industry
– Our students are trained to lead service companies within areas such as tourism and healthcare. Our research takes a broader, interdisciplinary perspective. We have a microperspective on the one hand with research at the level of agents, i.e. how individual agents manage particular problems. On the other hand, we have a structural perspective, in which research takes a broader view of everything from infrastructure to environmental impact.
How are service activities, with which we increasingly come into contact in our everyday lives, to be managed? What conditions does the service-based society impose on its agents? And what conditions can be imposed on the organisations themselves?
One example of an attempt to find answers is a new, three-year project in which a research team is to closely review and map retail business in the city. In addition, a municipal doctoral student, with a direct link to the project, is to be taken on.
– Retail business is central to a city's tourism industry and development. Not least for Helsingborg which is a well-known commercial city in Sweden. But this is an area where short-term solutions are common and the level of knowledge is fairly low. Following the strategic work in the sector over a longer period of time will help us to produce new knowledge about both present and future consumers, says Cecilia Fredriksson.
New, innovative services
A recurring element of the research is sustainability, such as the EU-funded project Future Coasts, a three-year cooperation project between universities and municipalities in the Norwegian, Swedish and Danish regions around the Öresund, Kattegatt and Skagerrak straits.
– In recent decades, the coastal areas have gone from traditional industries such as fishing to tourism. It is a challenge for coastal communities to adapt to the change while preserving their environmental, cultural and social values, says Cecilia Fredriksson, who was one of the managers of the recently concluded project.
Knowledge was generated and disseminated in all the areas that took part in the project. The conditions for new, innovative services were also investigated.
– The aim was simply to contribute to sustainable economic growth, by improving knowledge of sustainable development for coastal communities.