As consumers we live in a world where there is now so much choice, we are offered products and services which many years ago were not even possible. Through all this choice we still demand a personal experience.
What is interesting is that regardless of choice and complexity, as consumers we know what we need to get the jobs done in our lives. When we look at something we are able to translate the offering into something of personal value, or can we?
Are products and services becoming confused? As organisations try to entice us with new offerings are the terms starting to become blurred?
Do the organisations themselves know what they are selling and is the offering really a product or a service and what are the implications of this confusion?
To add to the confusion are the teams which are designing and implementing these offerings working together to ensure what is delivered is consistent, and aligned to the rest of the organisation?
First let us explore the differences between products and services and focus on why it is critical to get these definitions right.
Products vs Services
Over the years the term product and service has almost become part of one overall offering, which in some respects has added to the confusion.
For example if you had bought a car many years ago you would have just been buying the product ie the car. Now a car buyer buys a comprehensive bundle of service benefits, in addition to the tangible components of the car. However, there is a distinct difference between them and it is important to establish some working definitions.
While a product is something that can be measured and counted, a service is less concrete and is the result of the application of skills and expertise towards an identified need.
A product is something you can point at, whereas a service, as The Economist defines it, is any activity “you can’t drop on your foot”. This to me seems a perfectly sensible definition but has the digital age almost confused us.