The definition of service and its purpose using a paint tin analogy.

ITIL defines service as ‘A means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risks.’ This will be a familiar definition to any ITIL alumni; however in consideration of those reading this definition for the first time does it really teach you anything? To me it just makes me ask more questions about the value customers are looking for.

If you want to run a ‘does what it says on the tin’ approach to IT services, then the ITIL definition will do you fine, but I’d like to think that these days people will want more. I know I do, and so enter experience. Experience as a concept is quite often passed off as an extension of customer service, or better yet a buzzword to help re-market a product or service.

However, from my perspective service is the delivery of a desired outcome; the experience is then the qualitative and emotional content of the customer-to-server interaction. Above that, experience is also the process of mapping each of those interactions out and joining them up to build a fuller understanding of the service landscape.

The paint tin analogy...

To look further into the purpose of service, let’s go back to the ‘does what it says on the tin’ idea, and this time more literally. If you were to buy a tin of white paint to redecorate your living room, then the label on the tin might say something like ‘Easy to apply matt white paint for perfectly white walls in just one coat’.

Sounds pretty good right? I’d buy it. However the tin is just the product, it doesn’t know what you are going to do with it... are you painting a house, an office, a kitchen or a door frame? And even if it did know, it can’t respond or act differently because of it.

In order for the paint tin to become ‘a service’ it needs a more customer focused outcome. As far as the paint tin is concerned the outcome is a white wall, however introduce the service and a customer and suddenly the outcome becomes a fresh, modern looking living room, which will make you fall in love with your home again!

The service is the fulfilment of an outcome. Nowadays the customer’s needs go beyond just the fulfilment of a single outcome and into the details of each and every interaction the customer has. All of these interactions eventually become the experience or the customer journey.

What interactions make up the experience with the paint tin? Here are a few examples:

  • How easy was it to find the paint tin you wanted?
  • What help were you offered in choosing your paint?
  • How easy was it to find the right set of paint brushes?
  • Did anyone help you calculate how much paint you needed?
  • What if you realised you bought the wrong paint, could you easily change it?
  • Did anyone from the paint shop follow up to see how your living room was coming along?

These are all obvious things individually, but aren’t always approached holistically, and of course, the paint tin itself cannot influence the success of those areas. The service provider can, and in doing so adds value to the actual product.

Thoughtfully designed and executed experiences add value to services, and well-delivered, consistent services add value to products. The value cycle is really that simple.

About the author

Jonathan Munn, co-founder and chief customer officer at Conference In A Box.

Conference In A Box is a radical new learning and development tool that brings the conference to you, on-demand, for less than a posh coffee a week. Jonathan loves boxes, burritos and banana smoothies, in that order, and is a regular contributor to the Conference In A Box blog.