In these challenging times, I often stop to reflect on various aspects of my work. I have written about this in the Covid Diary, and now that there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, I want to focus on a fundamental point of our business: the difference between product and service. Or more precisely, the difference between selling a product and providing a service. It sounds trivial, but it is not
Which is the difference between a product and a service?
A product is a physical good that you can touch: you see it, buy it, use it, admire it or consume it. We are surrounded by products: from any object on the shelves of a supermarket to what we wear, from a car to the dishes in a restaurant.
A service, on the other hand, is something that is intangible; you cannot see it and you cannot touch it. We are also surrounded by services. Some examples? The waiter who takes our orders in a restaurant offers us a service (and then delivers us a product). The accountant who prepares our tax return. A flight. A taxi ride.
A product is, in most cases, repeatable. Two cars of the same model are the same. Two shirts of the same brand are the same. A tailor-made jacket created in a tailor’s shop is a product, but it is not repeatable, because the personalised service offered by the tailor comes into play.
In addition to the difference between tangible and intangible, we must also consider the interaction aspect. At the supermarket I buy a packet of biscuits (product) by taking it from the shelf and putting it in my trolley. I do not have to ask anyone to do it for me, just as I will not have to ask for information about those biscuits which I already know. If, on the other hand, I buy a tax return service from an accountant, then I will need to interact with the professional in question, who will need to receive information and documents from me in order to complete his work. The same is true for a taxi ride: in order to take a taxi ride, I have to tell the driver where to pick me up and where to take me.
Why have I introduced the product/service difference? Because of the last concept I spoke about: the interaction between buyer and supplier.
Spai offers services
Spai provides services, there is no doubt about that. Of course, the instruction manual, which is one of the results of our work, when it is finished and printed, can be considered a product, but in order to create it, we have provided a service. And what a service, given the complexity of the task.
In our particular case, we need information to process the work, otherwise we cannot complete it. If we are not provided with the necessary information immediately, the file remains open and even at a standstill for months because the work cannot be completed.
Does anyone of you reading this offer services? Think of how many times a client has asked you for a job and how many times you had to remind him that he lacked information that he had not yet provided. How many times have you chased clients to get that specification or that document needed to complete the job? I’m sure you have.
At Spai, we have developed processes to optimise the work, to make the relationship with our contacts more effective, to reduce the client’s commitment to us. In the end, the difference is always in the approach to the service. Any professional service could be faster and more economical if the whole supply chain acted with this awareness.