An extensive review of the literature reveals a dearth of
research on how complex services are collaboratively customised (i.e. co-created)
between service professionals and individual clients. In particular, there is a
paucity of research on how information systems can support the type of
information sharing and joint decision making that characterises service
co-creation. This poses a significant constraint on organisations who are
encountering a growing demand for co-created services from clients, who are
well educated and highly informed.
A theory building approach is now needed in order to
develop a deeper understanding of how complex services are co-created with
individual clients and the role of information systems in this type of service.
The IS discipline offers a valuable perspective for the development of this
theory because of its focus on people, process and technology and
because of its concern with the use of information systems to support decision
This study adopts a post-positivist theory building approach
to developing a theory of service co-creation.
It first employs activity theory as a molar theory to
identify the high level constructs that enable service co-creation, by
examining the factors that mediate the activity of service co-creation between
a service professional and a client.
Extant literature across a range of disciplines (including IS, psychology,
services, marketing and service science) is then reviewed in order to transform
these high level constructs into a conceptual model and theoretical
propositions. Subsequently, a single case study on the co-creation of financial
services in Ireland is undertaken in order to validate and further refine this
model, thereby developing the study’s theory of service co-creation.
The study contributes to IS theory and
practice by: (i) improving our understanding of the role of information systems
in service co-creation; (ii) exposing some of the limitations of current information
systems in supporting the co-creation of complex services with individual
clients; and (iii) demonstrating the efficacy of employing activity theory in
IS research on complex phenomena. The study also has implications for other
disciplines including services, marketing and service science. It provides a scientific
measure for service co-creation and presents an empirically based theory of
service co-creation, which helps to explain the factors that enable service
co-creation, as well as how they enable service co-creation.