The transformative service paradox: the dilemma of wellbeing trade-offs

Rebekah Russell–Bennett, Rory Mulcahy, Kate Letheren, Ryan McAndrew, Uwe Dulleck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: A transformative service aims to improve wellbeing; however, current approaches have an implicit assumption that all wellbeing dimensions are equal and more dimensions led to higher wellbeing. The purpose of this paper is to present evidence for a new framework that identifies the paradox of competing wellbeing dimensions for both the individual and others in society – the transformative service paradox (TSP). Design/methodology/approach: Data is drawn from a mixed-method approach using qualitative (interviews) and quantitative data (lab experiment) in an electricity service context. The first study involves 45 household interviews (n = 118) and deals with the nature of trade-offs at the individual level to establish the concept of the TSP. The second study uses a behavioral economics laboratory experiment (n = 110) to test the self vs. other nature of the trade-off in day-to-day use of electricity. Findings: The interviews and experiment identified that temporal (now vs. future) and beneficiary-level factors explain why individuals make wellbeing trade-offs for the transformative service of electricity. The laboratory experiment showed that when the future implication of the trade-off is made salient, consumers are more willing to forego physical wellbeing for environmental wellbeing, whereas when the “now” implication is more salient consumers forego financial wellbeing for physical wellbeing. Originality/value: This research introduces the term “Transformative Service Paradox” and identifies two factors that explain why consumers make wellbeing trade-offs at the individual level and at the societal level; temporal (now vs. future) and wellbeing beneficiary.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)637-663
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Service Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes


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