Frances X. Frei

UPS Foundation Professor of Service Management
Senior Associate Dean for Executive Education

Frances Frei is the Senior Associate Dean for Executive Education and the UPS Foundation Professor of Service Management at the Harvard Business School. 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 leaders create the context for organizations and individuals to thrive. She serves as a personal advisor to senior executives embarking on cultural change and organizational transformations.

Her work has been published in top-tier journals such as Management Science and Harvard Business Review and spans a wide variety of industries, including tech, retail, healthcare and global multi-brand organizations. She has published more than fifty case studies on companies ranging from eBay to Oracle to the Cleveland Clinic.

Professor Frei has been widely recognized for her dynamic teaching style.  She developed one of the most popular courses at HBS, which investigates how organizations build business models that reliably delight customers. She also led the development of HBS’s innovative FIELD curriculum, 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 has also developed breakthrough leadership courses optimized for rapid, lasting impact.  These include Why You Should Care: Creating a Culture of Excellence, Leadership Lessons from Ancient Rome, Women on Boards and The HR-Executive Suite Connection.

Professor Frei actively advises organizations on how to address issues of excellence, leadership, and strategy.  She works regularly with family businesses on the challenges of growth, succession planning, and the development of next-generation leaders. Her recent focus includes increasing the diversity of organizations as a means to significantly enhance organizational performance. 

Professor Frei serves on the Board of Directors of Blue Buffalo and Viewpost. She has a significant personal and professional investment in GenePeeks, a computational genomics company with a mission to protect future generations from life-altering and life-threatening diseases.  She received her Ph.D. in Operations and Information Management from the Wharton School.  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

    by Frances X. Frei

    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

    by Frances X. Frei

    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

    by Frances X. Frei

    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

    by Frances X. Frei

    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

    by Frances X. Frei

    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

    by Frances X. Frei

    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.