Frances X. Frei

UPS Foundation Professor of Service Management
Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Planning and Recruiting

Frances Frei is a Professor in the Technology and Operations Management Unit at Harvard Business School and the Senior Associate Dean, Director of Faculty Planning and Recruiting.  She is the best-selling author of Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business (Harvard Business Review Press). Her research examines how organizations can build service models that reliably deliver excellence.  Her work has been published in top-tier journals such as Management Science and Harvard Business Review.  In addition, she has published dozens of case studies across a variety of industries, including financial services, government, retail, software, telecommunications, and hospitality.  These cases include Zipcar, eBay, Southwest Airlines, Tiffany’s, Houston Rockets, Commerce Bank, Progressive Insurance, Orient Express Hotels and Zappos, among others.

Frances Frei is a Professor in the Technology and Operations Management Unit at Harvard Business School and the Senior Associate Dean of Faculty Planning and Recruiting.  She is the best-selling author of Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business (Harvard Business Review Press). Her research examines how organizations can build service models that reliably deliver excellence.  Her work has been published in top-tier journals such as Management Science and Harvard Business Review.  In addition, she has published dozens of case studies across a variety of industries, including financial services, government, retail, software, telecommunications, and hospitality.  These cases include Zipcar, eBay, Southwest Airlines, Tiffany’s, Houston Rockets, Commerce Bank, Progressive Insurance, Orient Express Hotels and Zappos, among others.

Many of those case studies appear in Managing Service Operations, an elective course she developed that investigates organizations’ efforts to diagnose and improve service experiences.  The course trains students on how to design operating environments that deliver on customer promises while creating value for broader stakeholders.  In support of this agenda, students learn to foster and manage organizational improvement, learning, and innovation.

Professor Frei recently led the new FIELD course at HBS, which focuses on learning experiences that are experiential and immersive, with the goal of advancing the School's mission to develop leaders who make a difference in the world. She is also faculty chair of the Achieving Breakthrough Service executive education program. In addition, Professor Frei teaches several Executive Education programs.  Professor Frei has received the HBS Student Association Faculty Award for teaching excellence on multiple occasions, as well as teaching awards from the Wharton School of Business and the University of Rochester.  

Professor Frei regularly advises organizations seeking to create greater value through their service experiences.  Her advisory work focuses on helping companies to make strategic choices that allow them to profitably differentiate on service.  She serves on the Board of Directors of Advance Auto Parts and serves on the boards of advisors of several private companies.

Professor Frei received her Ph.D. in Operations and Information Management from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.  She holds an M.E. in Industrial Engineering from Pennsylvania State University, and a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of Pennsylvania.

  1. Uncommon Service

    Most companies treat service as a low-priority business operation, keeping it out of the spotlight until a customer complains. Then service gets to make a brief appearance – for as long as it takes to calm the customer down and fix whatever foul-up jeopardized the relationship.

    In Uncommon Service, Frances Frei and Anne Morriss show how, in a volatile economy where the old rules of strategic advantage no longer hold true, service must become a competitive weapon, not a damage-control function. That means weaving service tightly into every core decision your company makes.

    The authors reveal a transformed view of service, presenting an operating model built on tough choices organizations must make:

    How do customers define “excellence” in your offering? Is it convenience? Friendliness? Flexible choices? Price?

    How will you get paid for that excellence? Will you charge customers more? Get them to handle more service tasks themselves?

    How will you empower your employees to deliver excellence? What will your recruiting, selection, training, and job design practices look like? What about your organizational culture?

    How will you get your customers to behave? For example, what do you need to do to get them to treat your employees with respect? Do you need to make it easier for them to use new technology?

    Practical and engaging, Uncommon Service makes a powerful case for a new and systematic approach to service as a means of boosting productivity, profitability, and competitive advantage.
  2. The Four Things a Service Business Must Get Right

    All successful firms must design a compelling offering and manage the workforce to deliver it at an attractive price. But service firms must do even more: deal with the frustrating fact that their customers can wreak havoc on service quality and costs. Align these key elements: service offering, funding mechanism, employee management and customer management to get it right.

  3. Pay-as-You-Drive Insurance: Big Brother Needs a Makeover

    How do you get your customers to behave? It may not be by watching our every move and then squirreling away the data.

  4. Culture at 30,000 Feet Above Ground

    Excellence equals design times culture. So half the battle is getting design of the organization right. The other half is culture. Southwest Airlines gets both right.