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 development of the new FIELD curriculum 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. In addition, Professor Frei teaches in Executive Education programs throughout the university.  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.  Her teaching assignments at HBS include FIELD, Managing Service Operations, Strategy, Technology and Operations Management, and Why You Should Care: Creating a Culture of Excellence.

Harvard University encourages its faculty to disclose any activities that might present a real or apparent conflict of interest.  Professor Frei advises organizations on how to create the context for organizations and individuals to thrive.  In particular, she helps organizations address issues of customer focus, organizational change and how to scale inclusively and effectively.  This work stems from her work on service excellence, leadership, and strategy. Organizations that she has provided professional services to in the past three years are listed below. 

AIG, Amdocs, Andrews Distributors, BlackRock, Berkshire Partners, Best Western, Cactus Club, City of Hope, ClickSoftware, Colliers International, Council of Public Relations, Cross Country Group, Di-Corp, General Electric, Gerstein Fisher, Great Clips, Houlihans, InterContinental Hotels, Intercorp, iShares, Jack Morton Worldwide, JPMorgan Chase, Kaiser Permanente, Ketchum, Lowes, Mars, McAlisters Deli, MetLife, Nestle, Ocshner Health Systems, Omnicom, Porter Novelli, Postnet, Rackspace, Sewell Automotive, StellaService, Stream, Stryve, Susser Holdings, Tata Consulting, Tatra Banka, The Select Family of Staffing, United States State Department, United Technologies, Westcon, XL Axiata, and Young Presidents Organization.

Professor Frei has previously served on the Board of Directors of Advance Auto Parts and currently serves on the Board of Directors of Viewpost.  She has a significant financial investment in GenePeeks.

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. Organizational Effectiveness

    This research studies the obstacles that systematically get in the way of organizational effecitiveness.  In the past I have paid particular attention to service organizations, which account for over 70% of organizations in most developed countries.  This research studies mature organizations as well as early stage ventures.  I am currently investigating two periods in an organizations lifecycle: rapid growth and turbulent times.

    Keywords: organizational effectiveness; organizations; entrepreneurship; service; Growth; management;

  2. Managing Service Operations Course Development

    Managing Service Operations is an Elective Curriculum course taught at HBS. Over thirty cases and exercises have been created for the course. For a list of the cases developed for this course, please see the Publications link below.  For the most recent syllabus, click here: MSO Syllabus.

  3. Managing the Operating Role of Customers

    Customers in operating roles introduce considerable variability into the production environment including differences in the demands they impose on the environment and the unpredictability of those demands. When customers are the source of production variability, the service experience can rely heavily on accommodating that variability. However, operational efficiency typically demands reducing variability. This research explores the challenge of managing the tradeoff between operational efficiency and service value, providing prescriptions for how to mitigate its effects through influencing customer behavior. See HBS 606-032 for a detailed discussion of managing the operating role of customers.
  4. Service Excellence by Design

    This research addresses how to design sustainable service models that deliver ongoing value to both customers and the firm. In particular, the research reveals three principles of effective service management (see HBS 606-031 for a detailed discussion of these design principles):

    • Ground the service offering in specific service attributes.
    • Build an explicit mechanism for funding the service offering.
    • Set employees up to reasonably deliver the service offering’s value.

  5. Managing Customer Information

    After a service offering is implemented, firms routinely collect significant amounts of data, including customer, employee, and firm financial data. However, service firms are not nearly as effective as they could be in taking advantage of these data. This research argues that a major shift in mindset is required before many organizations can effectively generate actionable insights from readily available data. See HBS 606-097 for a framework for approaching service management problems that can be informed by data analysis.
  6. How to Manage Customers for Increased Profits and Customer Satisfaction

    For many service firms, the customer plays an important role in contributing to the cost and/or quality of the service. This is very different than many manufacturing contexts, for example, where the firm has virtually complete control over product cost and quality. In these instances, firms need to design and manage customer involvement explicitly. By cultivating the appropriate environment, firms can harness customer efforts to the advantage of both the firm and customer. By not carefully managing this, however, firms can experience escalating costs in the face of eroding satisfaction.