September 1, 2014

Grow Your Sales and Gain Satisfied Customers Through “Service Innovation”

Grow Your Sales and Gain Satisfied Customers Through Service InnovationHaving a problem determining how to deliver your services in a way that consistently satisfies your customers? Maybe the trouble lies in how the solution is framed.  A suggestion from Lance Bettencourt, author of Service Innovation: How to Go From Customer Needs to Breakthrough Services, explains an enticing framework of opportunity:

“When conflicts arise in satisfying customers’ outcomes, they should be viewed as opportunities to take a new service delivery approach that challenges conventional industry wisdom.”

Bettencourt has crafted a fine book for service business owners seeking steps to address those opportunities. An experienced strategy adviser for Strategyn who has consulted for Microsoft, TD Bank and Abbott Medical Optics, Bettencourt provides a strategy development framework that business owners can easily understand and use to implement new services and operational ideas.

The Truth About How Your Customers View Your Services

Bettencourt approaches service innovation by declaring the four truths of services.  These truths describes the kinds of existing services from the point of view of the customers’ benefit:

  1. Customers hire products and services for completing a job.
  2. Customers hire solutions to accomplish distinct steps in getting an entire job done.
  3. Customers  use outcomes to evaluate success in getting a job done.
  4. Customers have distinct needs that arise related to the “consumption” of a solution.

These approaches, assert Bettencourt, mean that “a company is forced to think about service innovation from multiple valuable perspectives,”adding that the approaches can overlap yet still yield economic results.  He cites IBM’s revenue growth from $10 billion in 1990 to $50 billion as an example of benefiting from innovation discovery.

From there, Bettencourt identifies the four approaches to service innovation that a company can pursue to develop opportunities:

  1. Core Job –  a specific job requested by customers
  2. Service Delivery — how customers obtain the benefits of a service
  3. Supplemental Service — a service that helps customers gain more value from a product to complete a specific job
  4. New Service — an introduction of a new service

To help readers further understand, he treats the first three approaches in their own separate chapters.  This allows readers to understand the supporting steps to defining the opportunities.  Chapter Three, for example, examines a core job through formal questions such as “What must the customer do to successfully conclude the job?” and “What problems related to getting the job done must be resolved on occasion?” These questions are asked in a formal job map, a means to discover opportunities to improve service delivery.

I liked the book’s readability, and I particularly liked the job map processes.  There is a map for each kind of service opportunity outlined, and the aforementioned formal questions appear for each step outline. Supporting comments are ready to offer “ah-has!” such as the following comment on the question, “What service needs or inputs must the customer define or communicate to ensure success obtaining service or benefits?”:

“Even for simple services, a service provider can add value by helping customers to define their needs. To be successful, the customer wants to have the right inputs available for making decisions, not overlook any relevant needs, limit the costs of defining needs, and define the needs in a manner that can translate into decisions concerning service options. To ensure that its customers get an optimized treatment plan for their lawn, for example, Scotts LawnService uncover a lawn’s unique challenges through a detailed analysis of soil types, shade and sun exposure, types of weeds and varying levels of grass density.”

Tables and charts also summarize the suggestions well.  Figure 1-2 shows the flow chart for developing a successful service strategy, for example, while Table 7-1 lays out options for service delivery. You do not need to be the scale of IBM to use this methodology.

I thoroughly enjoyed Service Innovation because its concepts allow readers to take actions that can increase customer value and identify the opportunities for results. Service Innovation broadened my view of what I can look for to improve service to my customers.

An Outstanding Service Book You May Not Want to Share

Why, you ask?

It’s that good of an idea generator.

And given the number of small service businesses (they contribute 80 percent of the national GDP, according to Bettencourt), developing new ways to service customers is a worthwhile endeavor. This book flies in the face of those who cry out that customers are important yet never show exactly the way to really deliver.  Service Innovation has the right framework to  execute innovative ways to deliver services. The book quotes strategy guru Michael Porter, “…trade-offs are the essence of strategy. You just want to make the right ones.”  Service Innovation will show the way.

10 Comments ▼
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Pierre DeBois - Associate Book Editor


Pierre DeBois Pierre Debois is Associate Book Editor for Small Business Trends. He is the Founder of Zimana, a consultancy providing strategic analysis to small and medium sized businesses that rely on web analytics data. A Gary, Indiana native, Pierre is currently based in Brooklyn. He blogs about marketing, finance, social media, and analytics at Zimana blog.

10 Reactions

  1. It is all about empowering the consumer and helping them meet their needs. Taking what you have learned and offering the consumer a customized product or service. Great article.

  2. Thanks Adam. I hope you get a chance to check out the book and find something that is helpful for your efforts, too.

  3. I also greatly appreciated the book. It was a needed extention to Ulwick’s “What Customers Want” and, being in the service business, it has been a relief to reference something with such strategic relevance.

    I read it cover to cover and wished for a few more user friendly features that I’m sure get passed out in the training classes. It read like a Chilton’s manual without the pictures… a bit dull and deeply technical. So I was left thinking that the job to be done with the book itself missed a few opportunities for “complimentary solutions”. For example, I think this book could have had all the beauty and intuitive relevance of “Business Model Generation”.

    To be frank though I totally agree that this book may not be one you want to share. The methodology is stunningly powerful.

  4. Thanks Lu!

    I am glad you added your insights.

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