In every sector organisations over-invest in brand communication and product development while under-investing in services. Services are the growth sector in most economies and are powering knowledge and high-tech industries. Service development has huge, untapped potential for business impact and requires a well-designed service strategy to guide the organisation.

Change product-oriented thinking to service-focused strategy

We live in a service economy but still feel the hangover of the industrial age in our product-oriented thinking. Businesses need more service-oriented thinking to develop services that customers value and that can be delivered by the organisation. Services are not products, and a service strategy must reflect that. The approach to service strategy must consider three key factors; tangibility, timeliness and trial & error.

Tangibility: story-telling brings service concepts to life

By definition, services are less tangible than products. This is a quality of services, but it can also represent a challenge. Because service concepts are abstract, they can be hard to develop and communicate. Internal confusion impairs success. Any business strategy needs to be well understood by the organisation – service strategy is no exception.

The most effective method to bring service concepts to life is through storytelling. Stories help put abstract services in a context that people understand – they inform, excite and engage the organisation. Good stories are tangible.

Tangibility: story-telling brings service concepts to life
A service strategy should not only provide strategic direction, but should clarify how service should be organised for customers across the organisation, instead of creating one more helpdesk.

Timeliness: The right service at the right time

Customers value services that deliver on a need at the right moment – like a train arriving when you walk onto the platform. Defining how a service meets customer needs exactly when they occur enables businesses to zoom-in on customer value.

To do this, it is vital to understand the customer lifecycle and define how your offer meets customer needs at key stages of that journey. This approach will align the service strategy around customer value – everything else should follow.

"90% of our communication with customers is when we service them, so our service IS our brand"
Brand and Communications Director,, Global Pharmacy brand

Get clearer and move with more purpose

Many business leaders understand the potential for services and the demand from customers. Still, they struggle to achieve the clarity of purpose that they can easily define for their products. It not about fixing service failures but defining clear objectives of what services should deliver to customers and the organisation.

Having a tangible vision for a service – that meets customer needs in a timely way – and adopting a trial and error approach, is the path towards competitive advantage, equity and profits.

Caring for the customer

”Caring for the customer” is the core brand value of a Livework insurance client. The brand communication was clear, but customers didn’t experience it when they contacted the company. A broad effort was made to build “care” into every service contact with the customer. One example was to start every conversation with a genuine “How are you doing?”, another to draw a family lifeline together with customers when they visited a branch. The result: a jump from 70 to 11 on the national ranking of popular brands. More about this client: http://test.liveworkstudio.com/client-cases/gjensidige-office/

Strategic thinking about service

Services are not just an afterthought. They actually have the potential to generate customer loyalty through building and maintaining good relationships – while adding value and differentiation to products. A well-defined service strategy guides an organisation to design service that deliver high margins at low risk and be greatly appreciated by customers.

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