Is adding value to services a dumb idea?


One of my favourite quotes of the moment is by Shostack:

‘services are often inextricably entwined with their human representatives. In many fields, a person is perceived to be the service’

Shostack G.L. (1977) Breaking Free from Product Marketing, Journal of Marketing 41(2): 73–80.

This got me thinking about the unexpected and unwanted side effects of dreaming up supposedly added value service initiatives.

If the person is the service then the only way to add more value is to add more things for the person to do. Now you don’t have to be Einstein to realise that these things become additional burdens which can only dilute the primary purpose of the service.

Surely it’s better to invest in the capability of the primary service the customer is using rather than keep piling on extraneous service add-ons in the mistaken belief that this some how improves the service?  The implication here of course is that there is clear grasp of the fundamental value proposition of the service, that this is acknowledged by all who have authority to ‘add value’ and that adding value only happens if is resonates with the fundamental proposition.

Value adding seen from the perspective of ‘arbitrary added value ideas’ can therefore only result perversely in increased service ineffectiveness.

To paraphrase Drucker the thing about added value ideas is that they quickly degenerate into hard work typically for the ‘someone else’ who is the service!

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