The Virtue of Products in a Service Industry
The rise of apps -and our current ” there’s an app for that” culture – provides a helpful analogy.
As a society we are now bathed in an always-on communications and computation network that connects everyone we know (social media/social networks) with everything we have ever known (from Wikipedia to MIT’s Open Courseware to blogs on every conceivable topic… a bottomless pool of knowledge). Amidst this magical confusion, apps promise a bit of clarity; software whose design is fully concentrated on solving a specific and bounded set of issues (manage my travel, handle my to do list, make picture-taking more interesting and so on). Apps are successful precisely because they are discreet and, in the best possible way, unambitious.
In agency-land where we contend with the super-kinetic rate of change and how organizations can adapt to keep pace, products are our version of apps. A properly packaged service (which I am referring to here as product) benefits from similar focus and simplicity.
- Products are discreet and tailored to answer a clear business need or market truth
- They rely on standards, which means they are more cost-effective to reproduce and deliver
- Products are defined by a clear working method and deliverables which makes it easier to scale the offering beyond just one or two subject matter experts; training people on how the product works and auditing for quality of service…
- This “repeatability” allows for more time to be spent on packaging (design and typography, infographics etc.) which deeply enhance the perception of quality (see final point on processing fluency below)
- Products are easier for the client and the agency itself to grasp and sell… and this last piece is key when you might not have your subject matter expert (the practitioner) in the role of salesperson and need the support of your own agency to sell-in the service.
This leads us to the final virtue of products, one that might best be described as “the credibility that accompanies simplicity.” Well designed products deliver greater “processing fluency”. That is, they are easier to understand quickly and as such are perceived as more credible “..studies have shown that when presenting people with a factual statement, manipulations that make the statement easier to mentally process—even totally nonsubstantive changes like writing it in a cleaner font or making it rhyme or simply repeating it—can alter judgment of the truth of the statement, along with evaluation of the intelligence of the statement’s author. In one study, people were more likely to judge easy-to-read statements as true. This means that perceived beauty and judged truth have a common underlying experience, namely processing fluency.” (wikipedia)
While any nuanced thinker gets the fact that every professional services engagement is unique and therefore consultative in nature, any good consultant should understand the value of packaging their offering into products.