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Bentley Professor Joby John Wins "Highly Commended Paper Award"

March 8, 2007

Bentley Professor and Chair of Marketing Joby John is the recipient of the Highly Commended Paper Award for his article, "Improvisation in Service Performances: Lessons from Jazz," published in Managing Service Quality (2006).


The paper establishes the validity of jazz improvisation as a useful metaphor that captures key facets of service performances. "Jazz is a music form distinguished by its significant emphasis on flexibility and adaptability," says John. "That improvisation is also what successful service performance relies on."


While you can carefully select and train frontline service employees, he adds, the excellence of their role is sometimes compromised because of uncontrollable factors. Customers often expect service providers to understand and respond to their individual needs, which may require spontaneity.


The paper outlines ways in which services are like performances, the complexity and improvisation of services performances, and ways in which service workers can exercise discretion and bend the rules to accommodate customers. It also explores managerial guidelines for applying jazz improvisation to services -- such as flexible tools and thorough training for employees - and the benefits and costs of jazz improvisation.


John is a former marketing officer at Pfizer and BAT, in India. He has lectured in a dozen countries in topics such as services marketing, customer focused management and cross-cultural issues. He has published more than 50 scholarly papers, and most recently three books: Services Marketing Self-Portraits: Introspections, Reflections and Glimpses from the Experts (Houghton Mifflin, 2004); Interactive Services Marketing (Houghton Mifflin, 2003); and, Fundamentals of Customer-focused Management: Competing through Service (Praeger Publishers, 2003). John sits on the editorial review boards of four journals. He is a past President of the American Marketing Association's (AMA) Boston Chapter and a past chair of the Services Marketing Special Interest Group of the AMA. John has a PhD in Marketing.

Published by Emerald, an electronic version of the award-winning paper can be found at


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