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Paper info: Customers’ suffering and value co-destruction in business service ecosystems


Customers’ suffering and value co-destruction in business service ecosystems


Laura Litre Valentine and Olivier Badot

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 35th IMP-conference in Paris, France in 2019.


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This article explores the suffering experiences undergone by customers confronted with the overwhelming environment of big fairs and trade shows. While the economic value of customers’ experiences has widely been studied from a consumption perspective, our research focuses on the relationship between customers’ painful experiences and value in collective B2B and B2B2C service scapes. Drawing on a two years multi-sited ethnography and interview data, we provide a significant illustration on the complexity of the phenomenon: although visitors, exhibitors and event organizers acknowledge the negative impact of suffering on customer’s experience, they paradoxically seem to accept it with a relative feeling of resignation. Our study offers three main contributions. Firstly, we show the necessity of understanding suffering from a situational and holistic approach, which considers the customer’s individual situation within the larger perimeter of the service ecosystem. Building on Winnicott’s transitional theory, in situ and longitudinal observations, multiple business actors’ testimonials and our personal fieldwork experience, we shed light on the value co-destruction phenomenon in collective service scapes. Finally, we underline the role of caring and playing as a source of cohesion, emotional regulators, powerful suffering healers and vectors of resilience.