Interview with Dr. Doug Olsen, Faculty Director of Services Leadership Institute

Doug OlsenIn preparation for the 29th annual Services Leadership Institute (SLI), March 30 – April 1st,  2015, we sat down with Doug Olsen, SLI Faculty Director and Associate Professor of Marketing at W.P. Carey School of Business, ASU, to talk about some of the highlights of this year’s program.

1. This year marks the 29thoffering of the Service Leadership Institute. I would imagine that some of the key issues have changed considerably over this time.

A. This is unquestionably true. Initially the goal was to realize some of the fundamentals regarding what steps it takes to create service excellence and SLI was at the vanguard of this movement. While we still make sure that this base is covered, over time some of the issues critical in top professional service have evolved considerably and the sessions have advanced to reflect this.

2. Are there any that are particularly notable?

A. While I am hard pressed to think of any of the sessions as not being particularly cutting edge, there are a number that really stand out in this regard. Gary Bridge always brings current issues pertaining to the integration of technology into service delivery. Gary has such a strong background in the technology field, but more than anything, I am always amazed at his ability to present information that is contemporary, as well as some information that is at least five years ahead of the curve.

Steve Brown will be talking about moving companies along the service continuum – from the addition of basic services, such as technical support, to services that seek to provide a host of core competencies for the client organization in response to fast changes in business environment and evolving customer needs. This is something that a number of companies are struggling with as they seek to grow their profitability and enhance customer retention.

This year we are also very excited to have David Bowen joining us to examine some issues relevant to service culture. David is not only a world-recognized figure in service research, but also a new member of the ASU team now that ASU and Thunderbird have joined forces.

Also returning this year is Roger Hallowell. Roger was on faculty at Harvard, has written a number of influential cases in the area of services and is currently with HEC Paris. He is a highly sought after speaker in Executive Education circles and we are really thankful to have him this year.

3. Are there any other tools that stand out?

A. Definitely. Dr. Mary Jo Bitner, the Executive Director of the Center for Services Leadership, will be providing an examination of critical gaps in the delivery of services, a practical and powerful tool that can help managers identify what steps to take to make sure that their organization is properly aligned to have a strong service orientation.

Dr. Amy Ostrom will also be discussing issues pertaining to service blueprinting and giving individuals a chance to apply these skills. Service blueprinting has become an incredibly valuable tool for many organizations to identify key pain points faced by customers as well as internal pain points experienced by the service organization itself.

4. There is a lot of talk these days about developing a culture of service.  Is there anything at SLI this year that speaks to this?

A. I think there are a number of sessions that deal with this head on. While I will be talking about some of the key barriers to organizational change, Steve Church and Terry Cain from Avnet will be focusing on building a culture of service excellence.  We are also fortunate to have the embodiment of what it means to develop a culture of service excellence with Chris Zane, from Zane’s Cycles. The presentation from Chris is high energy and exceptional at driving home how the authentic delivery of customer care and consistent service innovation can lead to an incredibly competitive organization.

5. Is there anything else that you feel differentiates you from other programs dealing with the service experience? 

A. I think there are a lot of phenomenal people out there seeking to advance service excellence and I applaud all of these efforts. One of the things that we offer is providing an on-campus learning experience; the sessions are both in-depth and academically focused and are taught by top academic faculty and business leaders. This year is exciting as it is the first year we will be offering the program in McCord Hall, our new state-of-the-art building designed for our MBA and Executive programs.

The program also provides an excellent opportunity to make great professional connections. Attendees are people who are leading their companies’ effort in designing and delivering great service. SLI is a chance to connect with like-minded individuals, share recent successes and challenges. The interactions and networking with other participants are an added bonus that enhances the SLI experience. And you can’t beat the weather! It is the best time to visit Arizona.


To learn more about the Services Leadership Institute visit the Center for Services Leadership website.

Leave a Reply