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“Culture of Services: Paradox of Customer Relations”

This is the third round of the course as the self-paced format.

Instructor: Yutaka Yamauchi

See "Meet the Course Staff" section for more details.

Course Description

Services are everywhere in our society. We cannot live without them. More than 70% of advanced economies fall under the category of the service sector. Other sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing, also seek to incorporate service business.

What is service? While the existing discourse on services emphasizes customer satisfaction, hospitality, and clear design, this course offers a radically new perspective on services.

The coursework will explore major underlying theories of service, including customer satisfaction and service quality. In addition, learners will be exposed to competitive analyses, and explore the contradictory relationships inherent in services from an intersubjective perspective.

In this business and management course, you will learn how to analyze customer interactions, using video data taken in actual service organizations. Through discussions of a variety of services such as sushi bars, restaurants, hotels, and apparel, you will explore the complex nuances and begin to see services differently.

What You'll Learn

  • Radical perspective on the culture of customer service
  • Basics of customer service research
  • How to critique and design services
  • How to analyze customer interactions


None. This course is designed for undergraduate and graduate students who are interested in services. Although some advanced theoretical materials are included, the theme, i.e., services, should be familiar to everyone. Students are expected to complete several assignments throughout the course. In these assignments, students will observe, document, and analyze services around them.


3 to 4 hours per week


Each course will be provided with short lecture videos by the instructor, Yutaka Yamauchi along with a set of short Problems related to the contents of the lecture videos. By watching the videos and answering the Problems, we hope that all participants will gain some basic knowledge on culture of services. We also hope that the participants will recognize how culture of services is, and how little we actually know about it.

To get started, click on the "Course" tab at the top of the page. 


You are invited to participate in the Discussion forum (See Forum Guidelines here)  to share ideas and ask questions to peers relating to each of the course’s contents. We hope this opportunity will lead to fruitful exchanges and discussion.

Assignments and Grading Criteria

To earn a certificate for the course, students must mark the score of 60% or more. Grading for the course is as below.

A: 85 -100%
B: 75 - 84%
C: 60 - 74%
F: Below 59%

Problems and Completion Checklist assigned every week, count for 54% and 19% in total, respectively. During this course, learners are asked to work on four Homework assignments. The total of Homework counts for 27% (10, 4, 9, 4%, respectively).

  •  Problems: 54%

       -Due date: End of course

  • Completion Checklist: 19%

       -Due date: End of course

  • Homework 1: 10%

       -Due date: End of course

  • Homework 2: 4%

       -Due date: End of course

  • Homework 3: 9%

        -Due date: End of course

  • Homework 4: 4%

        -Due date: End of course

If you are on the verified track and mark the passing score, certificates will be issued automatically by edX under the name of KyotoUx.

Please pay attention to due dates of each Problem, Homework, and so on. To avoid any kinds of unexpected troubles including the Internet disconnection, we strongly recommend all learners to submit them with time to spare.

Course Schedule



  • Discuss the general characteristics of service.

Service experience: Comparative analysis

  • We can start to see the paradoxical nature of service.

Existing theories of service

  • Review some major theories of service such as customer satisfaction and service quality.

Ethnomethodology: Analysis of customer interactions

  • Learn to analyze recorded interactions in detail.

Hospitality: A critical perspective

  • Gain a critical understanding of the concept of hospitality.

Aesthetic of service: Taste and manners

  • Learn the social struggle over cultural aesthetic, taste, and manners.

Dialectic of customer relations

  • Understand the contradictory relationship of service from intersubjective perspective.

Service design from cultural perspective

  • Discuss service design that goes beyond human-centered design.

This course will end on Tuesday, August 4, 2020.

Reference Book for Japanese Learners

This course's contents at large are based on the following book in Japanese.