Service Strategy in Five (5) Questions


Efficiency and effectiveness are no longer valid as major strategic choices, they simply became basic requirements

What is a Service?

Service is helping a person or a company to get something done. Whether it is booking a hotel room online or shipping products from your factory across the globe. Service is primarily a nontangible concept. Often service is delivered as a combination of a tangible product surrounded by services e.g.  “a computer with a support contract”.


Isn’t my innovative product good enough? 

In our globalized and outsourced economy, most product companies fight with the same manufacturing weapons. iPhones and Samsung Galaxies (amongst others) are build by “cheap” labor in the same superefficient factories. Most of us can’t tell the difference between an iOS or Android phone. So having an innovative product is not enough.


Is it then about the service?

We also live in the digital age, meaning services become more and more digital and/or products are revolutionized by digital possibilities. This is a process called “Digitization”. Think about Airbnb, bitcoin, e-banking,, Uber, …

Digitization revolutionizes service (and business) models. Digital systems also have the tendency to evolve faster and to be copied more easily. So it’s hard to make a difference with service too.


How then to make a difference?

Efficiency and effectiveness are no longer valid as major strategic choices, they simply became basic requirements. The age of the ‘Treacy and Wiersema model’, that gave us the choice between Operational Excellence, Product Leadership and Customer Intimacy, is over. Operational Excellence and Product Leadership are now a kind of commodity.

What’s left is only one option, making the difference with Customer INTIMACY.


“Intimacy” you say?

Intimacy is a complex psychological concept. One feels intimate with one another if conditions such as understanding, respect, value transition, empathy and a bit of positive surprise or perceived passion, are present in the relationship.

Feeling is something internal, something of which you (yourself) decide that exists or not. Nobody can force you to feel intimacy. Also in a business relation, the only one to decide if a relation is intimate, is the client.

Client loyalty is a key driver for profit and success. Intimacy leads to loyalty. That’s why all businesses want an intimate relationship with their customers. It makes these customers really powerful, when all businesses want the same thing from them. And thus the Age of the Customer has come.


Again, how to make a difference?

An excellent service experience is provided during the interaction points between the customer and the company providing the service. These interaction points should be considered as broad as possible; from the moment the customer thinks of needing something, until the service is consumed and even beyond. In order to make the experience intimate, the balance of digital and human interaction points needs to be just right.

As argued before, if an excellent product is a basic requirement and the high quality of digital service is common, an important and underestimated moment to make the difference is at the human touch point.

As services are more and more digitized, human interactions become more rare. So if it is the moment to make the difference, is must be damn good, from the first time right!

Think about it. When did you last contact your bank? Perhaps just like me: either on an important, decision moment in your life (when wanting a financing solution for a huge investment) or when you where dissatisfied with their digital service (my account was blocked due to a system error).

At both moments I was stressed and looking for help. In the first situation my bank did not understand me well, and as a consequence, my new bank had the opportunity to do better, …they did!


Are you ready?

Is your organization ready? Most of us have already invested a lot in Customer Experience… at the Front End. But to be really efficient, it should be part of your organizations DNA. We all (hopefully) evolved already beyond the old age service desk, “all our agents are online; we will help you as soon as possible” … “bad music followed by tuut–tuut” … “Enter your customer-id followed by #” …

But are your technicians ready to do a follow-up in the same spirit? Are your processes able to provide the information at customer facing moments, accurate and in real-time? Or do you have to call back? Do you measure Customer intimacy outside – in; or just outside? Is your culture Customer First or Efficiency First?


Feel like you want to learn more?

By Danny Lievens