Services are frequently developed unsystematically; and new ideas are not sufficiently conceptualized and tested. This results in expensive improvement measures at a later stage during the operations phase. This challenge is addressed through the recent launching of the “ServLab” facility at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering. It incorporates a stage for acting out service scenarios, furnishings to represent the physical environment, and a large virtual reality (VR) backdrop to simulate the “servicescape”. Situations are played out by professional actors or by employees and invited customers. In particular, the ServLab makes it possible to test services comprehensively. It is just this problem which has not been solved satisfactorily for a long time — neither in science nor in practice. It is still common for concepts to be developed “round the green table”, followed by an attempt to implement them directly. Potential mistakes are discovered very late or not at all, resulting in expensive rectification activities. The ServLab makes it possible to visualise new service concepts (using virtual reality), create an environment that is as close as possible to reality (e.g. by playing back sounds or introducing odours) and to rehearse the interaction between customers and employees with the support of actors (service theatre).

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