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. 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.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  4. 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.
  5. 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.