Title: Transforming from service providers to solution providers: implications for provider-customer relationships and customer-induced solution innovation

Authors: Bjoern Hoeber; Mario Schaarschmidt

Addresses: Research Group Management of Information, Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Organization Design (MI2EO), Institute for Management, University of Koblenz-Landau, Universitaetstr.1, 56070 Koblenz, Germany ' Research Group Logistics, Technology and Innovation Management (LTI), Institute for Management, University of Koblenz-Landau, Universitaetstr.1, 56070 Koblenz, Germany

Abstract: There is a rich body of literature investigating the integration of customers into innovation processes. The various strands of this literature converge on the notion that integrating customers creates access to use-related knowledge that is needed to better target future customers. In a similar vein, solution selling has emerged as a means to provide solutions that fulfil customers' demands as an alternative to selling products and services to an unknown, anonymous customer. Here, most research adopts a producer-centric view. Yet, little research exists that: 1) combines customer integration and solution selling; 2) considers service companies. Thus, the authors' aim was to investigate whether and how a transformation from being a service provider to being a solution provider influences the provider's relationship with the customer, affects customer-induced service and solution innovation, and shapes the provider's absorptive capacity. The authors employ a case study design and investigate a German medium-sized IT consulting firm. The main result is the identification of testable propositions stemming from expert interviews and additional company data. At the end of the article, the authors discuss theoretical and managerial implications.

Keywords: solution selling; solution innovation; service innovation; absorptive capacity; customer-provider relationships; customer-induced innovation; service providers; solution providers; customer integration; Germany; IT consulting; information technology.

DOI: 10.1504/IJTM.2017.082357

International Journal of Technology Management, 2017 Vol.73 No.1/2/3, pp.65 - 90

Received: 28 Jul 2014
Accepted: 04 Mar 2015

Published online: 21 Feb 2017 *

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