Saturday, November 15, 2008

The folks over at the AT ONE project are studying service innovation and have some very cool and practical ideas. Ideas that really excite me, because they talk to my ideas about the digital society (my first post here). After a recent network meeting where AT ONE was presented, I was reflecting on my experiences at a client engagement involving the de-merger and subsquent merger of a business unit. Working with the service management aspects of this engagement, I am struck by the challenges many service orientated businesses face..... and lack of understanding of the nature of services!

My personal learning experience has come from concealing the complexity of the service concept while engaging with people from management and operations. And in trying to understand the anatomy of a service. My Ah-ha! experience has been in recognizing the subtle difference between "customer care" and "customer service". Customer care is what service-orientated businesses MUST offer their customers -- not as a service but as an activity to take care of their customers. This fundamental shift of mindset will open the way for businesses to think about creating experiences for customers.

Many years ago, when working with eLearning technologies, we designed solutions for customer-education for a Telco who was launching ADSL to the mass-market. I recall this huge gulf that separated those who built the order management solution and those who built the customer portal. I believe this gulf was there largely due to this fundamental lack of understanding of the service concept within the organization -- as in "ADSL service vs Customer Service" ---- and a dysfunctional business operating model (a case of chicken and the egg?)

A service is not a product, it is an effect brought about by a provider for a receiver, based on mutually acceptable terms and conditions. The focus of this exchange is on "What" and not "How" -- so the means by which the provider produces the effect need not be disclosed to the receiver and vice versa for the receiver's use of the service. I believe it is up to the provider to find the right balance between functional, commercial, legal, technical and aesthetic elements of the service to create an experience for the receiver that actually addresses his/her intentions.

As a business architect, I am looking to explore the anatomy of the service so that we can model services in a manner that captures provider and receiver perspectives. One of the things such a model will hopefully provide, is the basis to establish quality-of-service parameters that create more transparency, objectivity and automation to service delivery and management. To narrow my scope, I am interested in services provided by government. To that end, I feel it is crucial to consider (a) the dualism of consumer and citizen in each individual (the "consumerzen") and (b) an intention-based approach to engage with consumerzens.

As value creation in our societies comes increasingly from service-based activity, we must rid ourselves of the antiquated concept of "customer service". For welfare-based societies like mine (Norway) we must move fast to harvest our experiences in creating services so that we can take this to the multi-polar world. What I mean by that is for another blogpost.

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