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Customer Work Practices and the Productive Third Place

Mimoun, L. ORCID: 0000-0002-5173-312X & Gruen, A. (2021). Customer Work Practices and the Productive Third Place. Journal of Service Research, 24(4), pp. 563-581. doi: 10.1177/10946705211014278


Third places – communal or socializing places such as coffee shops – are confronted with a rising customer segment: customers who use them for work. Prior research is divided on this trend: customer-workers are seen either as a source of added value or a major threat to third places. Relying on a multi-method, qualitative study, we investigate the strategic implications of the rise of customer-workers in third places. We extend prior research by considering customer-workers as a new and valuable segment, with its specific motivations and practices. Building on the co-constitution of practices and places, we show that the rise of the customer-worker segment has fostered market differentiation. We identify four types of third places (archetypal, status quo, compromise, and productive) depending on their targeting strategy and their servicescape adaptation. We delineate how customer-workers transform third places’ value proposition and bring challenges to each type. Specifically, we show that status quo third places are most prone to customer conflicts while compromise third places generate managerial struggles. In contrast, productive third places adapt their servicescape to become work accelerators and a source of professional identity for customer-workers. We provide recommendations for managers to overcome conflicts and benefit from this growing customer base.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (
Publisher Keywords: Third place; productive third place; customer work; servicescape; market differentiation
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

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