Growtion Formula: #04 Product Service

There are a number of ways of viewing the Service that your Product will require to be performed. Often it can seem an onerous side-effect of the transaction. What you have supplied can require some after-sale resource to ship and install. You may be offering a subscription service where the client will be able to call upon an account manager or resource to refill their Product regularly. However you have Designed and Priced your Concept, the Service that you provide as part of it will become what you are ultimately judged upon.

This idea of “Judgement” is crucial to your success. We’ll return to it in the Element 9: Marketing: Social, as the ability (and willingness) of customers to publicise and review your Product is now a given. You cannot get away with promising one thing and delivering another. So, when considering what your Service ought to look like, at no time contemplate advertising something and not supplying it. The Growtion Formula is intended to drive success. You will not achieve it by misleading your clients.

What constitutes “Service” for a business will vary greatly, depending on the type of Product that it intends to support. If we return to our High Street staples – the charity, the betting shop, the estate agent and the barbers – and compare them with some online counterparts, there are a variety of different Services on display.

The charity shop’s Service is transactional, in that they sell goods. The expectation from the client is low – they do not anticipate an expensive, high-end interior with items coherently positioned and sales assistants roaming the shop floor to help them select their goods. There is little competitive advantage in offering a distinctive Service so most charity shops are very similar in how they operate.

Betting shops do not offer wildly different competitive Services either. Their customers have a level of expectation that remains constant and the costs of developing and distributing a significantly different or better Service can be seen to be better reflected in the Pricing (or “odds”) offered. New and exclusive FOTB machines may entice some with specific beliefs that they know how to “beat” the machine and win more often, but there is a clear limit to how convincing this can be as a Marketing – ie attracting – message. 

Estate agents’ Services do not, on the face of it, vary very much. The vast majority of their activity will be to sell or let property with some offering in-house Services such as mortgages and/or advertising other third-party financial and legal services. However, their Brands often represent something defining in the customer’s mind. Perhaps they may deal most often with high-end properties, or be believed to have the most property stock available, or have been in the town for the longest time (see Element 6: Marketing: Brand for more on this critical differentiator).

In addition, how they deliver the Service can make a difference. If you know that your estate agent is on the phone to possible buyers of your property within seconds, that could make you more liable to use them. If you know they advertise on more of the property portals that buyers prefer, you may be willing to pay more for their services, as by attracting more interest they will necessarily get you a better price for your property.

Barbers – and hairdressers – have a wide variety of different Services on offer in their premises, reinforcing the perfect nature of their competition. In a barbers you might be offered a shave, a haircut, both, a particular type of hairstyle at a different price (eg “crew cut”), a hair wash and beard trim. In the hairdressers, the list just continues – although perhaps not as often with the beard trim. Colouring, shampoo and set (depending on the age profile of the clients), all generally with the option of paying more for a more experienced stylist. Pricing will have bene set according to the variety and volume of competitors locally because, as noted elsewhere, this is one of the very few markets that is unlikely to end up online.

Speaking of online, let’s broaden our consideration from analogue to digital. The Service that Facebook provides is a platform for advertisers to target billions of people. Facebook knows a lot about these people, because it enables them – for free – to communicate with each other. Advertisers have a number of places that they can spend their Marketing pounds but the Service that Facebook offers – highly-targeted, pay-per-click, budget-limited, instant off/on, A/B testing – is very attractive indeed. This is why its company valuation is so high.

Crossing the boundaries of the real and virtual worlds, Uber is a company that has often found its Service criticised by lawmakers and more traditional competitors (taxicab firms, in general). Using technology, they have enabled people to get around some cities far more easily and cost-effectively than historically. Those criticising Uber do so because they perceive it to have an unfair advantage – sometimes they do not pay the same level of tax as their competitors, nor do they have the overheads of employed staff and the in-depth city-wide training costs that others do. From a client’s perspective, however, Uber’s convenience and affordability has made it a huge success very quickly. 

Your Service will be a factor of your Product’s Concept, Design and Pricing. There is a reason why it is the fourth Element.

If your Concept is a high-end Product, your Design an on-call subscription service, Priced to match, then your Service is going to have to deliver. If your Concept is affordable, Designed with minimal client communication and Priced low, your Service can be less intense.

So your analysis of your required Service levels needs to start with a reflection of the preceding three Elements’ harmony. Are they all aligned? If one seems out of place, refine it. There is a never a better time than when you’re working on your Service to retrospectively smooth any rougher edges in your overall Product. Remember that your Product is the outcome of all five of its Elements; Concept, Design, Pricing, Service and USP.

We’ve considered elsewhere the problem that your Product is here to solve – if there is no problem, or your Product does not appropriately solve one, then it will fail. One of the most common areas of problem in markets is in Service delivery. Often it is the case that poor Service encourages new entrants into this market. Let’s assume for a moment that this is your opportunity – solving the problem of poor Service in your industry.

You’ll have Designed an end-to-end Product which ensures that the problem is neutralised. You’ll have considered in your Pricing how much it will cost you to cover this and still make a profit. Now in Service you have to think hard about the mechanics of delivering your vision.

One of the key parts of Service is to understand what other tools are out there for you to utilise to make your Service more cost-effective. There are a plethora of low-cost and free products that you can find online now, to enhance your Service offering and deliver the quality that you want to at an effective cost. Many are featured within the Growtion book and on the Growtion website at growtion.co/eastereggs.

You’ll also want to consider what happens when you fail – and the disappointing fact is that you sometimes will. Your Service needs to be robust enough to deal with these instances too. Often that will take the form of your personal involvement in the resolution but there is no substitute for having clarity on what the ultimate fall-back position is.