Journal of Service Research
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2012 15: 59 originally published online 10 January 2012Journal of Service Research
Anu Helkkula, Carol Kelleher and Minna Pihlström
Characterizing Value as an Experience: Implications for Service Researchers and Managers
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Characterizing Value as an Experience:
Implications for Service Researchers
Anu Helkkula1,2, Carol Kelleher3,4, and Minna Pihlstro ¨m1
Abstract: Within contemporary discourse around service-dominant logic, phenomenologically (experientially) determined value
has been placed at the center of value discussion. However, a systematic characterization of value in the experience has not been
presented to date. In this article, the authors outline four theoretical propositions that describe what value in the experience is,
which are then illustrated using a narrative data set. The propositions consider both lived and imaginary value experiences and
posit that current service experiences are influenced by previous and anticipated service experiences. The article contributes to
the service literature by characterizing value in the experience as an ongoing, iterative circular process of individual, and collective
customer sense making, as opposed to a linear, cognitive process restricted to isolated service encounters. The authors recom-
mend that service researchers should consider the use of interpretive methodologies based on the four theoretical propositions
outlined in order to better understand the many ways that service customers experience value in their lifeworld contexts, which
extend well beyond the service organization’s zone of influence. Service managers should also consider how a richer understand-
ing of past, current, and imaginary value in the context in service customers’ individual lifeworld contexts might generate novel
insights for service innovations.
experience, phenomenology, value, service, narrative
Customer value has long been considered the next source of
competitive advantage for service organizations (cf. Woodruff
1997). However, service researchers have yet to respond to
Woodruff’s (1997) exhortation to develop ‘‘... richer cus-
tomer value theory that delves deeply into the customer’s world
of product use in their situations...’’ (p. 150). While numer-
ous methods and measures have been developed to research
customer value, such as customer-perceived value, value-in-
use, and value-in-context, value in the experience in the
broader context of service customers’ lifeworlds has received
limited interest among service researchers. Lifeworld (Lebens-
welt) refers to a world that is grounded in an individual’s every-
day lived experience in which meaning is prioritized in the
individual’s social contexts (Husserl  1970; Langdridge
2007; Merleau-Ponty  1962).
In the 10th foundational premise of service-dominant (S-D)
logic, Vargo and Lusch (2008) assert that ‘‘... value is always
uniquely and phenomenologically determined by the benefi-
ciary ...’’ (p. 7). However, the nature of phenomenological
value has not been elaborated or characterized to date.
Woodruff Smith (2007) defines phenomenology as the study
of phenomena as they appear in an individual’s experiences
and identifies different types of experience, for example, per-
ception, imagination, thought, emotion, desire, volition, and
action. In this article, we adopt a phenomenological perspective
and conceptualize ‘‘value in the experience’’ as individual ser-
vice customers’ lived experiences of value that extend beyond
the current context of service use to also include past and future
experiences and service customers’ broader lifeworld contexts.
Within this view, ‘‘value resides not in the object of consump-
tion, but in the experience of consumption’’ (Frow and Payne
2007, p. 91). Similar to other conceptualizations, value in the
experience is a subjective phenomenon (Holbrook and Hirsch-
man 1982; Goulding 2005).
Individual sense making of value in the experience can mean,
his or her current hairdresser provides good service at a reason-
able price. In addition to the current actual service experience
(e.g., servicescape, atmospherics, etc.), the value in the
1Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki, Finland
2Espoo University School of Science, Aalto, Finland
3Cranfield School of Management, Bedfordshire, UK
4University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
Anu Helkkula, Hanken School of Economics, Arkadiankatu 22, Helsinki 00100,
Journal of Service Research
ª The Author(s) 2012
Reprints and permission:
experience of the new hair salon may also be influenced by such
factors as previous experiences of hair salons, friends’ stories
about their experiences and possible recommendations, the
presence of other customers, or the type of day that the cus-
tomer has had, for example, enjoying a day’s vacation or rush-
ing to the salon after a busy day at the office prior to attending
an important evening business function. At first, the service
customer may feel awkward with the new hairstyle and doubt
if the service was worth paying so much for. However, after
receiving positive feedback from others, the value in the expe-
rience may cause the service customer to dismiss her concerns
about the price, and reflect on how trendy the end result is,
and to become more aware of the other types of clients of the
same hair salon rather than the price.
Despite this recent interest in value in the experience in
current academic discourse within and outside S-D logic, it
is apparent that the epistemological and ontological founda-
tions of value in the experience have not been previously
characterized in a systematic way in the value literature to
date. This article seeks to address this deficit by presenting
a conceptual characterization of value in the experience. In
doing so, we draw on Hart’s (2005) typology of how con-
cepts can be characterized. To paraphrase Hart, the questions
to be addressed in the characterization of value in the expe-
rience are as follows: (a) What is value in the experience?
(an ontological question); (b) What can be accepted as evi-
dence regarding value in the experience? (an epistemological
question); and (c) What methods and techniques should be
adopted for collecting data about value in the experience?
(a methodological question).
The remainder of the article is organized as follows: First,
we examine how customer (perceived) value has been charac-
terized and measured in the literature to date. This is followed
by four theoretical propositions that characterize what value in
the experience is and a description of each using the herme-
neutic spiral (cf. Gummesson 2000; Heidegger  1962;
Husserl  1967 and  1970; Jacoby and Braun
2006; Tuomi and Saraja ¨rvi 2003). Next, we present a range
of methods and techniques that are suitable for understanding
value in the experience. One such method and technique,
namely, the event-based narrative inquiry technique (EBNIT;
Helkkula and Pihlstro ¨m 2010), is subsequently illustrated
using a narrative data set that shows how service customers
individually and collectively make sense of lived and imagin-
ary value experiences. The article concludes with a discussion
of the implications of the propositions characterizing value in
the experience for researchers and practitioners and suggests
future research directions.
Value in the Experience and Applicable
Existing Characterizations of Customer (Perceived) Value
A review of the extant customer (perceived) value literature
reveals that ‘‘... marketing thought is (still) seriously deficient
in its understanding ofcustomervalue-related phenomena ...’’
(Woodruff and Flint 2006, p. 184). Despite the vast literature
on customer (perceived) value, several authors continue
to argue that the customer value construct requires further
refinement and development (e.g., Sanchez-Fernandez and
Iniesta-Bonillo 2007; Sanchez-Fernandez, Iniesta-Bonillo, and
Holbrook 2009; Smith and Colgate 2007; Woodruff 1997;
Zeithaml et al. 2006). Within the literature, however, there
seems to be consensus that value and value creation can
be studied either as single universal concepts or from the
vantage and contingency perspective of a particular source
of value (Lepak, Smith, and Taylor 2007). It is therefore
possible to consider value from a number of perspectives,
including those of the service customer and service provider
(Payne, Storbacka, and Frow 2008; Smith and Colgate
2007). In this article, we adopt the perspective of individual
service customers who experience value, which we term
value in the experience.
Many previous studies on customer (perceived) value
have assumed that service organizations and their customers
perform different predefined roles in relation to value
cocreation. The role of the service organization has been
viewed as that of predetermining the sources of value in the
service offering and delivery, while service customers are
primarily viewed as passive buyers and users of a particular
service (Graf and Maas 2008; Shah et al. 2006). Within this
view, value is seen to derive from the characteristics of the
firm’s service offering or to stem from the activities of the
service organization, as opposed to resulting from the ser-
vice customers’ activities or efforts (Clulow, Barry, and
Gerstman 2007). While this is a laudable and notable
improvement of a ‘‘product-centric’’ company orientation,
this view still seems to promote the belief that value or the
benefits to be derived from the consumption of a particular
service offering can somehow be largely predetermined by,
controlled by, and communicated to customers before or
during the service encounter itself (Kelleher and Peppard
2010). Such perspectives conceptualize customer (per-
ceived) value as a rather objective construct at the expense
of a more holistic appreciation of the multidimensional
aspects of customer (perceived) value including affective
and experiential aspects.
However, more recent definitions of customer (perceived)
value emphasize the notion that value stems from service cus-
tomers’ learned perceptions and preferences based on evalua-
tions of the probable and resulting consequences in certain
situations (Woodruff 1997). In contemporary service market-
ing and management discourse, customer value is no longer
‘‘objectified’’ and reduced to that which is produced or pro-
cessed for customers; rather, customer value is now considered
a phenomenon that relates to customer experience and value-
in-use (Heinonen 2009; Heinonen et al. 2010; Kelleher and
Peppard 2010; Sandstro ¨m et al. 2008;). For example,
Sanchez-Fernandez, Iniesta-Bonillo, and Holbrook’s (2009)
conceptual framework describes customer value in terms of
economic, social, hedonic, and altruistic categories in an effort
60 Journal of Service Research 15(1)
to capture the intrinsic, extrinsic, affective, and cognitive
aspects of customer value in the context of service.
Characterizing Value in the Experience
As previously stated, the current discourse around S-D logic
has refocused the attention of service scholars and managers
on the phenomenological nature of value (Edvardsson, Tron-
voll, and Gruber 2010). The phenomenological epistemology
legitimizes the primacy of individuals’ or, in this case, service
customers’ views and subjective experiences as data (Goulding
2005). Meaning emerges from individuals’ everyday lived
experiences and is prioritized in some form by those individu-
als (Langdridge 2007; Woodruff Smith 2007).
Within the contemporary discourse pertaining to S-D logic,
Vargo (2008) uses (but does not thoroughly characterize) the
term ‘‘value-in-context’’ as part of the continuing move from
the more ‘‘goods-dominant’’
‘‘value-in-use.’’ The use of the term value-in-context empha-
sizes the notion that it is possible for service customers to expe-
rience value even if they do not use or have not had direct
experience of the service or the service provider in question.
Service customers can, for example, construct future or poten-
tial service experiences from their imagination or from other
indirect sources, such as the stories and narratives of other peo-
ple (Meyer and Schwager 2007), or the shared value-in-context
experiences of other actors or beneficiaries (Vargo 2008).
In order to define ‘‘value in the experience,’’ we draw on
the phenomenological approach and ontologically focus on
subjective experience in a social context. Specifically, we con-
sider value in the experience to be the value that is directly or
indirectly experienced by service customers within their phe-
nomenological lifeworld contexts. This article proposes that
service customers make sense of and experience value in an
iterative way, based on their previous experiences or under-
standing (i.e., preunderstanding). The ontological recognition
of the subjective nature of experience predetermines what evi-
dence can be accepted in relation to value in the experience. To
outline the authors’ understanding of what can be accepted as
data on value in the experience, the latter will be characterized
through the presentation and discussion of four theoretical pro-
positions, which are collectively referred to as the VALEX
(value in the experience) propositions.
Proposition 1: Value in the experience is individually intra-
subjective and socially intersubjective.
Phenomenologically (experientially) determined value is
uniquely determined by the beneficiary (Vargo and Lusch
2008),in this case, the service customer and is therefore subjec-
tive. According to the phenomenological approach, the inter-
subjective nature of value in the experience acknowledges
service customers’ individual and collective relational
engagement with the world and how they seek to make sense
of this both at an individual and at a collective level (Smith,
Flowers, and Larkin 2009). Value in the experience is, there-
fore, also interactional within the context of service
customers’ phenomenologically determined social networks
(cf. Finsterwalder and Tuzovic 2010; Grove and Fisk 1997;
Palmer and Koenig-Lewis 2009; Vargo and Lusch 2008).
In addition to value being cocreated through service custom-
ers’ integration of the various physical resources provided by
service organizations, value also emerges from service cus-
tomers’ integration of other cultural and social resources,
including other service customers, within their lifeworlds
(Arnould, Price, and Malshe 2006; Baron and Harris 2008;
Chronis 2008). Service customers experience value and infer
credibility from other customers based on the shared experi-
ences of value (Hennig-Thurau et al. 2004). Therefore, it
appears that even if service customers individually experi-
ence value, they also tend to share certain type\types of
experience\experiences with other service customers, that
is, the data are intrasubjective and intersubjective (Schutz
1967). Furthermore, individual customers, as well as groups
of customers, may hold common, ‘‘generalized’’ perceptions
of phenomena and events within the various social groups to
which they belong (Johns and Tyas 1997).
Proposition 2: Value in the experience can be both lived and
The interaction between service customer/customers and
service provider/providers does not always need to be practi-
cally lived. Within the phenomenological perspective, service
customers have direct experience of a particular service when
they are actually participating in the service encounter (Meyer
and Schwager 2007). Service customers may also experience
value and service as a result of indirect interactions with the
service phenomenon, for example, through word-of-mouth
recommendations, reviews, or advertisements (cf. Meyer and
Schwager 2007; Miller, Fabian, and Lin 2009). In addition,
value in the experience may incorporate imaginary experi-
ences without any actual contact with the service provider
Proposition 3: Value in the experience is constructed based
on previous, current, and imaginary future experiences and is
temporal in nature.
As postulated by Belk (1975), ‘‘... time may also be mea-
sured relative to some past or future event for the situational
participant ...’’ (p. 159). Human experience is a dynamic con-
struct that is subject to continuous change as individuals
engage with others in their lifeworlds (Pollio, Henley, and
Thompson 1997).Pollio, Henley, and Thompson (1997) further
elaborate on the nature of human experience, stating that expe-
rience ‘‘... is always intensely personal and only infrequently
transparent to itself; the meaning of one’s experience fre-
quently changes as it is described and/or reflected upon ...’’
(p. 29). Accordingly, service customers’ experiences of value
may iteratively flow back and forth between current, future,
and past experiences within a hermeneutic spiral of sense
making. Service customers’ imaginary experiences of value,
as outlined in the second proposition, may include nostalgic
reinterpretations of previous experiences of value that
Helkkula et al.61
represent service customers’ interpretations or reinterpretations
of what might have been or anticipated experiences of what
might be in the future (Arnould, Price, and Zinkhan 2002;
Thompson, Locander, and Pollio 1989; Tynan and McKechnie
2009). Thus, current value in the experience can affect how a
customer makes sense of past and future experiences.
Proposition 4: Value in the experience emerges from indivi-
dually determined social contexts.
Within the S-D logic discourse, customer value is viewed
as being ‘‘... idiosyncratic, experiential, contextual, and
meaning-laden...’’ (Vargo and Lusch 2008, p. 7). Service cus-
tomers are always, consciously and unconsciously, accessing
and modifying, to use Schutz’s (1967) term, their ‘‘stock of
knowledge’’ of their individual and collective ‘‘lifeworlds.’’
Value in the experience is determined by the individual service
customer’s context and is constantly changing and will very
much depend on the particular service customer’s specific
interest and personal lifeworld context. The contexts in which
service customers experience value do not necessarily equate
with the service contexts offered or proposed by the service
organization. Indeed, within the service customer’s lifeworld,
the service contexts proposed by different service providers
may or may not be integrated into the customer-to-customer
(C2C) network context. Even if the service context proposed
by service organizations is experienced by the service cus-
tomer, such experiences will not be identical for each service
customer (cf. Chronis 2008).
When considering these four propositions in relation to
researching value in the experience from the service customer’s
perspective, it is important to acknowledge that ‘‘pure’’ experi-
ence will never be fully accessible to the researcher, or to the
pertaining individual service customers, using phenomenologi-
cal or indeed any other research methods (Smith, Flowers, and
Larkin 2009). The ontological focus of phenomenology is sub-
jective experience and how the individual service customer
makes sense of it (Goulding 2005; Woodruff Smith 2007).
Therefore, inner thoughts and explicit speech are an essential
part of sense making that illuminate but do not and cannot fully
reveal lived experience. Although lived experience is empha-
sized in phenomenology, it does not need to denote externally
observable actions but rather represents an individual mental
construction. Thus, evidence in relation to experience is never
an objective record of what really happened but rather repre-
sents respondents’, researchers’, and readers’ sense making in
relation to particular phenomena. In addition, service custom-
ers’ iterative sense making is not a linear process, as current
value in the experience is constructed based on previous
and imaginary future experiences (e.g., Gummesson 2000;
Heidegger  1962). Accordingly, and in acknowledg-
ment of the caveats above, the individual service customer’s
view is taken as a ‘‘fact.’’ Figure 1 presents a holistic sum-
mary of the four VALEX propositions that can be applied
when researching how individual service customers itera-
tively seek to make sense of value in the experience in differ-
ent social contexts and lifeworld situations.
Method and Techniques for Understanding
Value in the Experience
Established Customer (Perceived) Value Measurements
Many traditional customer (perceived) value measures are best
suited for analyzing the experiences of current customers, and
they tend to focus on a specific perspective rather than a holis-
tic view of customer value. Established customer value mea-
sures, such as the Customer-Perceived Value Measurement
scale (PERVAL), introduced by Sweeney and Soutar (2001),
conceptualize customer value and its associated measurement
as a linear process involving presevice, inservice, and postser-
vice consumption phases (Sweeney and Soutar 2001), or
merely as a value judgment based on in-use experience. Value
judgments and evaluations of the perceived benefits and sacri-
fices of using a particular service are based on perceptions of
some type of customer trade-off, for example, between price
and quality. Other alternative approaches to measuring cus-
tomer (perceived) value focus on predefined value categories
in the context of a particular type or category of service and
fail to incorporate a more longitudinal perspective (Flint,
Woodruff, and Gardial 2002; Holbrook 1994; Rescher 1969;
Zeithaml 1988). Typically, deductive measures that require
consumers toevaluate their experience of using a service do not
adequately capture the perceptions of noncustomers or pro-
spective customers of the particular service or its competitors
(Zeithaml et al. 2006).
Alternative customer value measures, which are primarily
economic in nature, for example, customer assets (Gupta and
Lehmann 2003), customer equity (Blattberg and Deighton
1996; Hogan, Lemon, and Rust 2002), customer lifetime value
(Berger and Nasr 2002), and customer profitability (Reinartz
and Kumar 2003), do recognize the longitudinal aspects of
value. However, such measures are unable to capture the total
customer experience in a holistic way over time. Many tradi-
tional customer (perceived) value measures focus on postuse
evaluations of a particular service without explicitly taking into
account how the use of other services or imagined experiences
may affect customer (perceived) value judgments. Indeed,
Sweeney (2002) states that some factors used to evaluate or
anticipate customer-perceived value prior to the service
encounter are no longer important in postpurchase evaluation,
for example, the inconvenience of using the service. They fail
to acknowledge how past and future experiences of service cus-
tomers and noncustomers are intersubjectively and intrasubjec-
tively related when new and existing service customers seek to
make sense of and evaluate perceived value within their idio-
syncratic and socially constructed frames of reference.
Interpreting Value in the Experience
Due to the limitations of current conceptualizations of cus-
tomer (perceived) value and associated measurement scales
that have been previously outlined, further academic research
is required to better understand the customer value construct
(Sanchez-Fernandez and Iniesta-Bonillo 2007). In line with
62Journal of Service Research 15(1)
the phenomenological epistemology, interpretive research
methods that endeavor to illuminate how service customers
make sense of subjective experience can be used to achieve this
research objective. In contrast, research methods that aim at
objective approximations and generalized outcomes are not
Narrative methods offer one illustration of a category of
research approaches that interpret and make sense of human
experience by listening to, collecting, and analyzing stories
(Webster and Mertova 2007). Stories can be used to explore the
VALEX propositions in different contexts. Narratives reveal
the individual’s retrospective sense making of human
experiences and enable the phenomenological researcher to
illuminate the implicit—as well as explicit—meaning of a par-
ticular phenomenon (Atkinson and Delamont 2008; Smith,
Flowers, and Larkin 2009). While narratives reveal service cus-
tomers’ retrospective sense making of their experiences, they do
not simply impart a passive mirroring of experience; rather, they
reveal how service customers iteratively construct and recon-
struct past, present, and anticipated future experiences using sys-
tems of signs, numbers, words, or pictures (Czarniawska 2004).
While temporal order is often present within service customers’
narratives, the latter do not necessarily, need to flow in a linear
way as events; their importance and structural connections to
each other make the temporal, spatial, and character details of
the story explicit (Riessman and Speedy 2007, p. 430). This is
in line with the phenomenological approach, as sense making
moves backward and forward between specific events and
experiences to illuminate such experiences from the perspective
of the individual storyteller (Crossley 2006) or, in this case, the
Narrative data collection methods, such as phenomenologi-
cal or lifeworld interviews, can be used to explore how respon-
dents make sense of their value experiences in a particular event
and social context (Kvale and Brinkmann 2009). Such ‘‘inter-
views’’ are dialogical, intersubjective, social constructions (or
coconstructions) of respondents’ sense making of their
experiences, as opposed to knowledge discovery of ‘‘objective’’
facts by an omnipotent interviewer or researcher (Kvale and
Brinkmann 2009). Projective techniques (Boddy 2004; 2005;
Webb 1992) can also be introduced during phenomenological
interviews in order to uncover or illuminate those experiences
that respondents may be reluctant or unable to express directly.
Other methods that can be used to elicit service customer
narratives include personal introspection, which requires ser-
vice customers to analyze and record their own individual
value experiences. Researchers then study service customers’
self-recollection of their life stories in the form of personal dia-
ries or autobiographical accounts, which in turn illuminate such
experiences for others, including the researcher (Baron and
Harris 2008; Brown 2006; Holbrook 2005; Patterson, Hodgson,
and Shi 2008).
Illustration of Researching Value in the Experience Using
The EBNIT (Helkkula and Pihlstro ¨m 2010) was used to ana-
lyze a data set of service customer narratives obtained from
personal interviews, which illustrate the four VALEX proposi-
tions previously outlined. EBNIT combines narrative analysis
and critical events (Czarniawska 2004; Webster and Mertova
2007) with projective techniques in the form of metaphors. In
EBNIT, the storyteller, in this case, the service customer, spon-
taneously, and in an unsolicited naturalistic fashion, indicates
which value experiences are lived and which are imaginary.
By focusing on service customers’ narratives of experienced
critical and imaginary events, the respondent is invited to
reflect on the possible meaning of the experiences and to cocon-
struct meaning together with the interviewer. In addition,
respondents are triggered to reveal their imaginary value experi-
ences throughthe use ofmetaphors,suchasa magicwand,genie
servant,oranideal world,where everythingispossibleand there
Figure 1. The hermeneutic spiral of individual and collective sense making of value in the experience.
Helkkula et al.63
are no financial, technical, or other restrictions to their ideal
The structure of EBNIT analysis mirrors the typical struc-
ture of a narrative, identifying actors, key events, and their
sequence and settings that are context-specific. Within the
EBNIT framework, the interdependence of events, their impor-
tance, and their structure make the temporal, spatial, and char-
acter details of the story explicit to the service customers
concerned, as well as to the researcher (McKee 1997). EBNIT
recognizes that multiple perspectives, divergent viewpoints,
and customer voices may exist at various points in time
(Helkkula and Pihlstro ¨m 2010). Narratives of individual ser-
vice customers’ experiences in their specific social context are
therefore considered to represent dynamic, subjective—as
opposed to objective, static—realities that reveal how service
customers iteratively make sense of value in the experience.
The latter is cocreated between the storyteller (service
customer), the interviewer, and the reader or within the
service customers’ social network (cf. Schutz 1967). As part
of the empirical EBNIT study, 25 service customers were indi-
vidually interviewed regarding their experiences of using
social forums in connection with various types of events,
including cultural, sports, and family events (specifically a
musical event, an orienteering event, a football tournament,
and a bachelorette party). All 25 respondents had direct expe-
rience of the specific phenomenon being explored (Table 1).
Each service customer narrative (story) relating to various
value experiences was transcribed and saved as a separate word
document. Each narrative, together with related narratives, was
then read in full in order to gain a holistic picture of the
intrasubjective and intersubjective value experiences of the
service customers involved. A minimum of two researchers
reviewed each service customer narrative at least three times.
Subsequent readings of the service customer narratives fol-
lowed using the EBNIT technique. Using NVivo, themes were
categorized as either lived critical experience or as imaginary
experience based on the criticality of the event. Critical events,
that is, those events that were remembered by respondents as
being especially valuable, positive service-use situations, were
coded as lived experiences. Other lived events, that is, more
incidental events that were not reported by respondents as
being critical, were also identified and coded in the analysis,
which in turn facilitated a more holistic understanding of how
service customers connect events when making sense of their
experiences (Gough 1997). Events, which the storytellers pre-
sented as imaginary events and which often revealed custom-
ers’ imaginary, idealized experiences, were also coded; for
example, situations where a new service would be valuable
to the respondents, but one that does not yet exist. Differences
in coding were discussed and mutually agreed upon.
Next, we illustrate the four VALEX propositions using the
narratives that emerged from the EBNIT analysis. While each
of the narratives analyzed was unique and tended to focus on
particular themes, all four propositions relating to the charac-
terization of value in the experience were identified in the
VALEX Proposition 1 (Value in the experience is individu-
ally intrasubjective and socially intersubjective) is the first
proposition illustrated by the customer narratives. The intra-
subjective nature of value in the experience reflects individual
Table 1. Summary of the Data Collection
Source of Data 25 Narrative Interviews
Web 2.0 service used (music, pictures, videos, and social networking sites)
What Web 2.0 services have you used? (A list of the most popular Web 2.0 networking
services was provided to respondents), For example, Facebook, LinkedIn, Second Life,
MySpace, IRC Gallery (a social website for young people), photo sharing (Flickr, Picasa
Web), and video sharing (YouTube, Google video)
How many times have you attended or participated in the event/social networking site in
1. Describe how you use online social forums relating to this event?
2. Describe other similar events
3. Tell me an imaginary story of how you would have acted if anything were possible?
Forget technical restrictions; anything is possible. In the future, there will be a magic
wand to help you do whatever you want
A magic wand, an online genie servant, or avatar
Event-based need, which spontaneously emerged during the interviews
Interviews were conducted in June, July, and August of 2008
25 storytellers expressed lived value experiences and 23 storytellers expressed imaginary
value experiences based on their lived value experiences
25 service customer interviews
The interviews were transcribed, saved as separate Microsoft Word documents and analyzed
both as separate cases and in relation to each other, based on lived and imaginary value
experiences using the QSR International product, NVivo
Data collection methodology
Lived versus imaginary experiences
Analysis of cases
64 Journal of Service Research 15(1)
service customers’ sense making of value in the experience,
which takes place as inner thoughts and which may or may not
be externalized in the form of words or gestures. When individ-
ual service customers seek to make sense of their experiences in
a social context, they interact with each other and discuss value
in the experience. Such experiences may be shared directly with
other customers or through online social networking sites. For
example, an individual who attended a jazz festival made
sense of value in the experience of attending the musical
event. In addition, he wanted to know what his friends had
experienced and wanted to share his experiences with them.
many concerts were outdoor concerts. Even if I was told that this
and uploaded pictures. I wanted to know where they have been,
what they had done, and with whom. But I didn’t want them to
know that I’ve been looking at their profile and pictures.
(19-year-old male who attended a jazz festival)
It is clear that social networking forums are important for the
social construction and sense making of different types of phe-
nomena, such as value in the experience (cf. Cova, Kozinets
and Shankar 2007; Kelleher and Helkkula 2010). While the
first customer narrative refers to ‘‘lurking’’ behavior on social
networks, that is, nonparticipant observation and reading of
Facebook posts in order to understand the value in the experi-
ence of others, the second example illustrates how an individ-
ual service customer, by creating and sharing content on
Facebook, seeks to assist her friends.
WhenI tag pictures thatI’ve taken at this event, Idon’t tag them
for my own benefit. When other people, who attended this
event, check Facebook, it’s nice that they understand that they
get information from the pictures below by using this file tag.
(26-year-old female who attended an orienteering event)
VALEX Proposition 2 (Value in the experience can be both
lived and imaginary) demonstrates that value in the experience
does not have to be based on an external event that has an exter-
nal replica (Valberg 1992); rather, value in the experience can
also be based on an imaginary event or thought. The narratives
of the service customers interviewed reveal how service cus-
tomers make sense of their previous lived experiences and
illustrate how such experiences could become more valuable
to them. Some of the imaginary value in the (future) experi-
ences revealed in the following customer narratives included
adding sunshine, wind, and sound to photos and the provision
of the precise location and position of friends at a festival or
I think it is useful to see the date and time in the photo. I ima-
gined I would automatically get the location where the picture
was taken as well. [...] If it were possible, I’d like my friends
to sense the sunshine, rain, and wind in the pictures too.
(26-year-old female who attended a football tournament)
I took a nice short video with my cell phone at the party. But
I also imagine that pictures could include voice to express the
atmosphere. (25-year-old female who attended a bachelorette
The following narrative shows that people may relate their
imaginary value experiences to actual events in their lifeworld.
In the next example, a young male revealed that he would like
to be able to locate his friends at an event; however, he would
not like others to be able to locate him.
[At this music festival] I would like to be able to use my cell
phone to locate my friends, but I would not like to be located
by them. (18-year-old male who attended a musical event)
It is important that service organizations recognize that future
service innovations and development ideas can originate from
such imaginary experiences. For instance, in the illustration
quoted above, the imaginary experiences of incorporating
sound into pictures or including a voluntary location-based
option within a cell phone application provide interesting and
novel insights for service innovation and development for
companies in the mobile and web services sectors.
VALEX Proposition 3 (Value in the experience is constructed
based on previous, current, and future experiences and is tem-
poral in nature) refers to the ongoing reconstruction of value
experiences based on previous, current, or imaginary future con-
texts, that is, the hermeneutic circle. Previous and anticipated
future experiences of value will also, both subconsciously and
consciously, become figural and brought to bear on current value
in the experience. In the next illustration, one service customer
made sense of current and future value in the experience based
In the past, I downloaded photos when we refurnished our
apartment and then invited our friends to check them out. [Her
friends told me they appreciated her downloading the photos.]
I am planning to download some pictures I just took [of the
event, which she attended with her friends]. It will be nice to
see the pictures and create memories of past events. (29-year-
old female who attended a bachelorette (hen) party)
Other service customer narratives revealed the multidimen-
ple, the following quotation demonstrates how one service
customer made sense of her value in the experience before, dur-
ing, and after a football tournament. She decided to attend the
mation package from the organizer of the event prior to attend-
experiences in relation to playing football with her friends. She
alsocontinued tomakesense ofhervalue inthe experiencedur-
ing and after the tournament had taken place, reflecting also on
whether she would attend such an event again.
[First recommendation of her friend] First, I heard from Mary
[names changed] that this event would be interesting.’’ ...
Helkkula et al.65
[Second recommendation from another friend] Susan told me
the same. I have enjoyed jogging with them ... [She looked for
information in the Internet] I read about this on the Internet. ...
[imaginary/experience] I imagined it would be nice to attend.
... [She decided to take part in the event] Then, I decided to
attend and registered for the event on the Internet. ... [The
event arranger contacted her by mail] I received an information
package by mail. There was a lot of useful information. ...
[She made sense of the value in the experience after the event
and considered whether she would attend again.] I thought
the tournament was fun. I might attend in the future as well.
(49-year-old female who attended an orienteering event)
These service customers are making sense of their current, and
imaginary future, value in the experience based on their past
experiences. Sense making is related to different events and
points in time, which makes it temporally contextual. Current
temporal contexts and experiences may cause service custom-
ers to revise, revisit, and reinterpret past experiences. For
example, even if a person might feel stressed during a sports
competition or if a sports event is scheduled during bad
weather, the value in the experience, considered retrospec-
tively, may be reinterpreted in a more positive light. For exam-
ple, an individual may fondly remember the friends with whom
they shared an event, or may consider that a previous negative
experience was indeed a positive and formative experience.
VALEX Proposition 4 (Value in the experience emerges
from individually determined social contexts) indicates that the
context of the value in the experience is individually deter-
mined in a social context and cannot be determined by the ser-
vice provider. Sense making in relation to value experiences
moves backward and forward: the customer’s lifeworld experi-
ences act as the foundation for service customers’ understand-
ing of value in the experience and other phenomena. For
example, one young male indicated that value in the experience
is affected by other individual/individuals who belong to the
same social context.
I spend many hours a day on IRC [an online social networking
website called IRC Gallery]. In my network of friends [an
individually determined social context] are people that I know.
I like most of the people, but some of them I dislike very much.
I am updated about where people go, and I also share my
experiences. If I get to know that a person I very much dislike
will attend an event, I may not go there just because he will be
there. Just meeting him there would destroy my good experi-
ence. (18-year-old male who attended a football event)
Other narratives indicated that individually determined social
contexts are not stable and may affect value in the experience.
For example, one service customer recounted that while she
initially took up orienteering after meeting her husband, she
now personally enjoys attending orienteering competitions and
enjoys sharing this experience with her extended family.
Previously, I did not go orienteering at all. I was interested in
other sports. But since I met my husband, orienteering has
become a family thing. It was not just my husband who went
orienteering, but his brother, sister, and parents used to go with
as well. So, I actually just more or less had to start orienteering.
That is why I go orienteering nowadays and decided to attend
this ladies’ orienteering competition. Even though I went orien-
teering because it’s just a family thing, I enjoyed myself and the
orienteering event was good. (41-year-old female who attended
an orienteering event)
Table 2 summarizes the four VALEX propositions. Value in
the experience is not an objective measure of customer (per-
ceived) value but is based on individual sense making in a
social context. In addition, value in the experience may be
based on an event or thought that has previously taken place,
on stories of other people, or on an imaginary idea. The four
propositions are not mutually exclusive; rather, they overlap
and are interrelated with each other. For example, when the
respondents determine the social context of the value in the
experience (Proposition 4), it is often based on previous expe-
rience (Proposition 3). Thus, value in the experience cannot
solely be restricted to the current service context proposed by
the service organization.
Implications for Service Researchers
This study has characterized value in the experience and pre-
sented four VALEX propositions that conceptually broaden the
perspective of value. The central premise of this characteriza-
tion isthat value in the experience isan intrasubjective, socially
intersubjective, context- and situation-specific phenomenon
that is both lived and imaginary, constructed based on previ-
ous, current, and imaginary future experiences and is tem-
poral. In addition, it was illustrated, using the event-based
inquiry technique, how the VALEX propositions can be used
to analyze a data set of service customer narratives. Charac-
terizing value in the experience has a direct impact on the
ontological, epistemological, and methodological choices of
a specific study or project.
Implications of Characterizing Value in the Experience
and Acceptable Evidence of It
Clearly, it is possible to view value from a number of perspec-
tives, including those of the service customer and service provi-
For service researchers, this implies that, while service organiza-
tions have certain perspectives relating to their value proposi-
tions, service customers possess their own approach to value,
which does not always correspond with the value proposed by
the company (Gro ¨nroos and Helle 2010; Heinonen 2009).
The application of the VALEX propositions to the narrative
data set analyzed illustrate that value is indeed uniquely
and phenomenologically determined by the service customer.
This finding would seem to align with Vargo and Lusch’s
(2008) and S-D logic’s tenth foundational premise: value is
66Journal of Service Research 15(1)
beneficiaries or actors (Vargo and Lusch 2008). Characterizing
value in the experience using the VALEX propositions, there-
fore, reveals individual service customers’ dynamic, subjec-
tive, and event-specific interpretations of value in the
experience (Woodruff Smith 2007, p. 209).
The insights derived from this study also have implications
for service researchers who are interested in examining C2C
value cocreation and different perspectives of value. The nature
of C2C value cocreation and social value experiences has been
considered only to a limited degree in extant research in the
form of social value (Sheth, Newman, and Gross 1991), social
esteem (Konanam and Balasubramanian 2005; Laukkanen and
Lauronen 2005), social pressure (Kleijnen, Wetzels and de
Ruyter 2004; Venkatesh, Morris, and Davis 2003), and the
social context of service-use situations (Pura and Heinonen
2008). To date, much of the extant research on customer (per-
ceived) value has considered individual customer value inde-
pendently of other customers and has ignored the effects of
the latter (Graf and Maas 2008; Kelleher and Peppard 2010),
with some notable exceptions, including the Nordic School
of Marketing, S-D logic, and the work of Schau, Muniz, and
Arnould (2009). The VALEX propositions and related service
customer narratives indicate that value in the experience cannot
solely be restricted to a single dyadic relationship between an
individual service customer and a service organization, but
rather occurs within a value constellation of multiple firms,
customers, and other actors with a service system or network
(Gummesson 2008; Vargo and Lusch 2008).
We summarize what value in the experience is and what evi-
dence is acceptable with regard to it in Table 3. In addition,
Table 3 compares the characteristics of the various interpretive
research approaches compatible with the VALEX propositions
to alternative deductive measurement scales, such as PERVAL
(Sweeney and Soutar 2001), that were developed to measure
customer-perceived value of different types of services. When
compared to linear measurement scales, such as PERVAL, a
Table 2. Interpreting Value in the Experience
Propositions Relating to the
Characterization of Value in the
Individual Value in the Experience Relates to the
Social Context Relationship to Previous Literature
Proposition 1: Value in the experience is
individually intrasubjective and
People make sense of value in the experience with
subjective inner thoughts that reflect personal
preferences or what is socially beneficial. The
experiences are discussed and shared with
others face-to-face, on the phone, and
increasingly through online social networks
such as Facebook.
Value in the experience can be based on individ-
uals’ previous lived experiences of service-use
situations or events where services could have
been useful but were not used. Imaginary value
experiences may also be based on other peo-
ples’ experiences, on stories communicated
through various media, or on individually ima-
gined thoughts and beliefs.
Current and future experiences are based on
previous experiences and as such incorporate a
temporal dimension. As people make sense of
previous value in the experience at different
points intime, they maysee thepast experience
in a new light. Therefore, value in the experi-
ence is temporal in nature and subject to
Individual customer social networks
were an important forum for the
social construction and sense making
of different types of phenomena, such
as value (cf. Cova, Kozinets, and
Shankar 2007; Kelleher and Helkkula
Individuals socially and contextually
construct what reality is for himself
or herself (cf. Shankar and Patterson
2001 refer to Hudson and
Value in the experience can be both
lived and imaginary.
Proposition 3 Value in the experience is
constructed based on previous,
current, and imaginary future
experiences and is temporal in
The reconstructive or cumulative
nature of experiences has been
recognized in the hermeneutic spiral,
which indicates that sense making and
understanding is based on previous
understanding (i.e., preunderstanding,
cf. Husserl  1967;  1970;
Gummesson 2000; Tuomi and
Saraja ¨rvi 2003).
Sense making in relation to value
experiences moves backward and
forward: the customer’s lifeworld
experiences act as the foundation of
the customers’ understanding and
experience of value and other phe-
nomena, that is, phenomenological
and experiential nature of value cre-
ation (cf. Crossley 2006, p. 429;
Helkkula and Kelleher 2010; Vargo
and Lusch 2008).
Proposition 4 Value in the experience
emerges from individually deter-
mined social contexts
The context for value in the experience is not
determined by the service provider, but rather
by the individual’s lifeworld. Individuals make
sense of value in the experience in relation to
Helkkula et al. 67
number of ontological and epistemological differences are
ingpoint,and itaims to present objective andgeneralizable find-
ings in preservice, inservice, and postservice phases of a specific
service or context, as defined by the service provider. While
PERVAL focuses on perceived value, the VALEX propositions
center on lived and imaginary value in the experience. Applying
the VALEX propositions, service customers define event-
specific contexts by describing the current service experience
in relation to previous and imaginary future events.
The comparison elucidated in Table 3 indicates that the
application of the VALEX propositions is suitable for analyz-
ing how service customers dynamically intertwine their lived
and imaginary value experiences in a hermeneutic spiral of
nonlinear, cyclical sense making.
Implications Relating to the Possible Methods and
Techniques That Could be Used for Collecting Data
About Value in the Experience
While certain aspects of subjective meanings of everyday lived
experiences might be evident or figural to individual service
customers incertain contexts, sometimes value inthe experience
may be hidden from service customers and researchers within
the ‘‘natural attitude’’ and may need to be uncovered using phe-
nomenological research methods (Langdridge 2007). As illu-
strated, studies conceptualizing value in the experience can be
operationalized using methods and techniques that understand
sense making as a form of knowing and that focus on individual
subjective experience in a social context. In this article, a narra-
tive technique to collect data was employed, but any research
method or technique that is interpretive and focuses on the sub-
jective experience and how individuals make sense of it can be
usedtocollectdatainrelationtovaluein the experience.Table4
It is important to note that it is not our intention to suggest
that interpretive methodologies are the only methods applica-
ble for studying customer value or that they should serve as a
replacement for other alternative methods, such as linear mea-
surement scales. We consider that the VALEX propositions
offer a useful characterization of value in the experience that
complements other predefined customer (perceived) value
measurement scales, for example, using phenomenological
research methods and techniques as a prestudy. The VALEX
propositions, therefore, are an example of ‘‘nascent theory’’
Table 3. Comparison of Individual and Collective Sense Making of Value in the Experience (VALEX) to the Customer-Perceived Value
Measurement (PERVAL) Scale
Inductive Value Measurement Techniques, such as
Deductive Value Measurement Models, such as
Evidence about value in the
Form of knowing
Interpretive: individuals’ (service customers’)
subjective experiences are justified as data
Sense making that is based on an iterative and
cumulative process of previous and current
understanding (the hermeneutic spiral)
Experiences of value are both individually
(intrasubjective) and socially (intersubjective)
Realist or critical realist
Aims to present objective, generalizable results
that are based on subjective self-reported data
Based on theoretically justified hypothesis
Individual versus social value
Service provider’s perspective on how individual
service customers perceive value
Analyzes the effects of customer-perceived value
on other constructs
Aims to generalize findings on a population
Focuses on customer-perceived value. Does not
discuss imaginary customer-perceived value;
therefore, necessitates direct experience or
use of a particular service
Lived and imaginary perspective Includes lived and imaginary value experiences.
Incorporates both direct and indirect value
experiences, that is, the individual service
customer can imagine the experience of service
in the inner world without ever having
experienced the service in the external world
Value experiences are based on current, previous,
and imagined future experiences within and
outside the context of the specific service
Event-specific and justified by the individual
service customer in the individual’s lifeworld,
which is socially constructed. Identifies the
world as lived, in comparison to the world as
construed by an external entity, for example, a
Suggestive propositions may act as an invitation
for further work on the phenomenon or set of
issues revealed by the study
Value is perceived in preservice, inservice, and
postservice consumption phases
Defined by the service provider
A measurement scale that enables analysis of
relationships between constructs; may add
specificity, new mechanisms, or boundaries to
68 Journal of Service Research 15(1)
(Edmondson and McManus 2007), which holds that ‘‘...
researchers do not know what issues may emerge from the data
and so avoid hypothesizing specific relationships between
variables...’’ (p. 1162). Predefined scales, such as PERVAL,
can be used in conjunction with phenomenological research
methods and techniques, as both approaches can provide com-
plementary insights regarding the nature and experience of
customer (perceived) value.
Analyzing value in the experience using the VALEX propo-
sitions does not aim to generate generalizable findings from
large samples, but rather seeks to learn something new from
examining value in the experience within service customers’
lifeworld contexts. In addition, the phenomenological approach
provides a longitudinal perspective of customer value (Kumar,
Lemon, and Parasuraman 2006), as service customers recon-
struct current value in the experience based on their past and
imaginary value in the experience.
Implications for Managers
From the service organization’s perspective, relatively little
is known about customer value-related phenomena (Flint,
Woodruff, and Gardial 2002; Woodruff and Flint 2006). While
Priem (2007) acknowledges the pivotal role of customers as the
arbiters of value, he notes that customer value is primarily con-
ceptualized as something that is embedded or transferred in
market offerings and value chains to customers. In this context,
the service organization’s overarching objective is to develop
and provide services and service experiences containing some
type of embedded value to customers, at a profit, in order to
generate a return for shareholders (Priem 2007). The notion
of exchange value (or value-in-exchange), which pertains to
the actual price paid by the customer to the firm for the service
purchased, becomes the predominant consideration (Bowman
and Ambrosini 2000). In that vein, strategic business decisions
are typically based on the company perspective including, for
example, market potential, competitors, the price customers are
expected to be willing to pay, and short-term and long-term
profitability calculations. However, a broader perspective from
the customer’s point of view is needed. Frow and Payne (2011),
for example, note that few organizations actively consider how
they might better engage with stakeholders to develop more
relevant value propositions.
Based on the characterization of value in the experience, we
provide managerial implications that enable service managers
to better understand what value in the experience is, what can
be accepted as evidence about it, and how to collect data on it.
Implications to Understanding What Value in the
Experience is and Acceptable Evidence of It
According to the VALEX propositions, value in the experience
is based on previous experiences, related to service customers’
lived and imaginary value in the experience in specific, contex-
tual settings. The VALEX propositions indicate that value in
the experience goes well beyond the interaction between ser-
vice customer/customers and the service provider. It is there-
fore imperativethat service
perspective in order to analyze service customers’ lifeworld
contexts and social networks, to observe both existing and ima-
ginary customer practices, and to explore expectations based
on the past as well as the future. We recommend that service
organizations not only research and identify the core values and
lived experience of service customers but also extend observa-
tions to include socially constructed experiences in order to
successfully cocreate relevant value propositions.
managers broaden their
Table 4. Methodological Approach for Collecting Evidence About Value in the Experience
Constructs and measures
The phenomenon of value in the experience is the starting point of the research as opposed to
existing constructs, measures, and scales
Open-ended inquiry about lived and imagined value in the experience in service customers’
Do not aim to uselinear measures, but rather use first-person illustrations of customer sense making
in relation to value in the experience
Seek to examine the dynamic and complex phenomenon of value in the experience before, during,
and after actual or imaginary service consumption
Also, consider the effect of and interrelationships between other types of actual or imaginary service
consumption within an individual’s lifeworld context
Possible pattern identification
Thematic content; aims to interpret and make sense of value in the experience
Narrative inquiry, protocol writing, and phenomenological interviews (service customer lifeworld
descriptions and sense making of what happened)
Personal introspection (e.g., using diaries, journals, and blogs)
Critical incident technique (interviews or written stories of specific events)
Projective techniques including metaphors
Ethnographic techniques including autoethnography, netnography, participant and nonparticipant
Goal of data analysis
Data analysis method
Examples of possible techniques
Helkkula et al.69
For a service organization, characterizing value in the expe-
rience complements more traditional customer-perceived
approaches and enables a deeper understanding of (perceived)
value in service customers’ lifeworld contexts. The changing
conditions in different contextual settings are difficult to antici-
pate but should be included in strategic decision making in the
quest for estimating service customers’ willingness to cocreate
value in the experience. When aiming to cocreate value with
potential or existing customers, service organizations are faced
with questions about how, when, and the degree to which cur-
rent and prospective service customers are willing to finan-
cially support or pay for current or imaginary future value
experiences. For development purposes, as the narratives sug-
gest, it is important that service organizations recognize that
future service innovations and development ideas can originate
from service customers’ imaginary experiences. This is partic-
ularly important, for example, in contexts where service inno-
vations are so new that service customers or organizations do
not have access to service customers’ prior perceptions or
expectations in order to form a basis for their value judgments.
Any value propositions that plan to incorporate new technology
into the service offering in ways that have not been available
before rely on imaginary future experiences of how value can
be experienced before the first service offerings are available
for trial and use. Examples of such technologies in the past
included, for example, text messaging, location-based services
and augmented reality, to name but a few.
Implications Relating to the Possible Methods and
Techniques That Could be Used for Collecting Data
About Value in the Experience
Currently, interpretive approaches using customer narratives
are to some extent used by service organizations to illustrate
customer practices in their everyday lives.
We suggest that using interpretive methodologies and ana-
lyzing value in the experience using the VALEX propositions
provides new insights on how value is constructed in the ser-
vice customers’ lived contexts. Managers would benefit from
collecting evidence on lived and future customer experiences,
identifying possible patterns as to why, when, and what cus-
tomers are willing to purchase in the future, as well as which
parties should be involved in the holistic value experience.
Interpretive methods, such as diaries, journals, blogs, inter-
views, or written stories of specific events and observations, are
recommended for collecting data about value in the experience.
Future Research Directions
As the implications of this article highlight, value in the expe-
rience is a meaningful research topic for service marketing
scholars with direct implications for practitioners. The leading
service marketing and management scholars in the world have
ranked value among the top 10 research priorities, and in par-
ticular, the requirements to measure and optimize the value of
service and to enhance the service experience through cocrea-
tion (Ostrom et al. 2010).
This is primarily a conceptual article with limited empirical
illustration using interpretive research methods. In this article,
we have endeavored to contribute to the topical discussion and
research priority of value by characterizing value in the expe-
rience (VALEX) as a complementary, phenomenological per-
spective for examining customers’ value experiences and to
present some future research directions in Table 5 to deepen the
understanding of this phenomenon.
Like all studies, the present investigation has certain
acknowledged limitations. The illustrations used in this article
are from a single service category, namely, Web 2.0 services,
which potentially limits the generalizability of the findings to
other contexts. We believe that the propositions apply regard-
less of the service field, although the social context may be eas-
ier to identify in digital than traditional retailing contexts.
Therefore, we encourage researchers to collect additional
examples of service customer narratives and experiences in
other service categories using, for example, blogs, customer
diaries, customer feedback, personal customer service situa-
tions, and interviews. This would facilitate deeper contextual
insights in different service fields, such as retailing, travel, and
financial services. In such fields, customer communities or
online forums are often used to elicit future value proposition
ideas from a panel of current customers. Insights relating to
imaginary future experiences can also be extracted from these
types of forums using appropriate methods. Nevertheless, it
should be noted that the subjective meaning of customers’ con-
sumption contexts may change over time. Thus, interpretive
research approaches that adopt a longitudinal perspective and
acknowledge the dynamic and iterative nature of value in the
experience from the individual service consumer perspective
We encourage empirical studies that characterize value in
the experience and reflect the epistemological and ontological
position that knowledge is dynamic, intersubjective and intra-
subjective, and socially constructed. While studies on custom-
ers’ subjective value experiences in a specific lifeworld context
will not provide generalizable findings for researchers and
practitioners, they capture subjective value experiences in the
social context. Thereby, they will facilitate a deeper under-
standing of how service customers make sense of their lived
and imaginary value experiences in specific social contexts.
Alternative research methods and techniques need to be devel-
oped to further explore subjective experiences in a social con-
text. Future research on value in the experience would enable
service organizations to make sense of how current and pro-
spective customers make sense of their event-specific value
in the experience in their own lifeworld. With increased under-
standing, companies may be better prepared to facilitate value
in the experience and offer meaningful value propositions.
The authors would like to thank the editor and anonymous reviewers
for their valuable comments, and the following professors at Hanken
70 Journal of Service Research 15(1)
Table 5. Future Research Directions for Value in the Experience
Topics and Propositions
Important Research Questions
Implications for understanding what
value in the experience is
Individual social (P1) Social context (P4)
Researchers should make explicit the
perspective from which value is being
analyzed and in which context.
Researchers should also consider and
acknowledge the social networks and
lifeworld contexts of respondents.
Both individual and collective value
experiences should be considered and
include sharing with others and
nonmonetary service exchanges.
How does customer context affect
customer value in the experience?
Does individually constructed perceived
value differ from socially constructedvalue in the experience?
How is value in the experience shared
Implications as to what can be accepted
as evidence about value in the
Lived imaginary (P2)
Past future (P3)
The epistemological, phenomenological
understanding focuses on subjective
experience, which relates to past
current and future events.
Further research should also incorporate
imaginary experiences in connection
with lived experiences. This is
particularly relevant in relation to new
How do past and future lived value in
the experience affect current value in the experience?
How can value be optimized in future
How can service organizations innovate
by combining customers’ lived and
Implications as to what methods and
techniques should be adopted for
collecting data about value in the
Interpretive methods and techniques
When focusing on value in the experience,
researchers should use interpretive research approaches and methods that
are flexible enough to include events that
service customers see as relevant,
despite the fact that events are related to
the specific service, provider, or use
situation at hand.
Alternative research methods and
techniques need to be developed to
further explore subjective experiences
in a social context.
What methods can be used to
illuminate and interpret subjective
and context specific value in the
How do interpretive methods and
techniques complement objective
Could other types of data, for example
symbols, art, drama, or videos, be
used to illuminate customers’ sense
making of their experiences?
Schoolof Economics for their feedback on the previous versions of the
article: Tore Strandvik and Maria Holmlund-Rytko ¨nen.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to
the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for
the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The illustra-
tive quotes have been selected from a research project financed by
Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation.
The authors would like to thank Tekes and the Foundation for Eco-
nomic Education, Finland for financing that enabled the article to be
finalized. The authors received no financial support for authorship,
and/or publication of this article.
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J. AndrewPetersen (2006),
Anu Helkkula (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior researcher at the
Centre for Relationship Marketing and Service Management (CERS)
at Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki, Finland, where she
received her PhD in 2010. Her primary research interests include ser-
vice experience, the co-creation of value, and the development of
innovation practices. For 20 years, she has worked in service manage-
ment and development positions. Her research has appeared in the
Journal of Service Management, Qualitative Market Research, the
International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Health Care Marketing,
the Journal of Customer Behaviour, and the Journal of Applied Man-
agement & Entrepreneurship. She is also a senior researcher at Aalto
University School of Science, Finland (email@example.com).
Carol Kelleher (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a lecturer in marketing at
University College Cork, Ireland and a PhD candidate (part-time pro-
gramme) at Cranfield School of Management, United Kingdom
(email@example.com). Carol’s research focuses on the con-
sumer experience and practice of value co-creation in collaborative
consumption contexts. Her research has appeared in the Journal of
Customer Behaviour, the International Journal of Electronic Govern-
ment Research, the Journal of Applied Management and Entrepre-
neurship, and the Irish Management Journal.
74 Journal of Service Research 15(1)
Minna Pihlstro ¨m (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior researcher Download full-text
at the Centre for Relationship Marketing and Service Management
(CERS) at Hanken School of Economics in Helsinki, Finland, where
she received her PhD in 2008. Her primary research interests include
mobile and e-commerce, customer perceived value, customer equity
and loyalty, and strategic customer segmentation. Her research has
appeared in Psychology and Marketing, the Journal of Retailing and
Consumer Services, Qualitative Market Research, the Journal of
Services Marketing, Managing Service Quality, and the Journal of
Information Technology, Theory and Applications. She also acts as
a senior consultant at Segmento Oy.
Helkkula et al.75