Are we moving towards outcome-driven services?

Graham Hill posed the following question on Twitter today:

Thought provoking… Service As A SKU techcrunch.com/2012/05/14/ser… Are we moving towards outcome-driven services? #servicedesign #cem #cex

@GrahamHill

How very interesting.

I haven’t thought about this article in these terms, so Graham’s intriguing question got me thinking.

I have written about this excellent article here, service outcomes here and the role of perceptions here. Against this backdrop, my response to Graham is this:

Expectations of service outcomes and price are what makes people buy a service, perceptions of good service experiences make them come back.

I believe this to be true also when we consider the increasing interest in outcome-based contracts, particularly with respect to compensation, in business-to-business contexts (for example, in the professional services field).

So while I don’t think that we are “moving towards outcome-based services”, specified and contractually agreed service outcomes are certainly important aspects for purchase decisions, while service experience will continue to be relevant during service delivery and for re-purchase decisions.

From a service buyer perspective, it is certainly no coincidence that a focus on outcomes makes services comparable and thus prone to commoditisation, price competition and the race to the bottom–although perhaps somewhat short-sighted.

It seems remarkable that at the same time as (the desire for) service commoditisation increases, the people formerly known as consumers increasingly demand connections on a human level and meaningful conversations from their service providers. It seems to me that people seem to have a good head start on corporations here…

I wanted to stop writing after the last paragraph, but now realise that my response to Graham might be more true for non-distinct services than for others. Expectations of good service experiences might be particularly relevant for purchase decisions of services that are especially important or have particular meaning for service customers.

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