The distinction between product and service is artificial. Products and services cannot exist independently and require a global design. Understanding this can be the key to designing a great business.
Commonly, it has been established a division between two set of phenomena: Products and Services. So, we have companies that offer products (e.g., a bakery) and companies offering services (e.g., a law firm).
However, this product-service distinction doesn’t exist, in the sense that it is not possible to offer a product without a service and a service cannot exist without a product.
This dichotomy comes, on the one hand, from a worldview that divides the phenomena into categories in order to better analyze and understand them. On the other hand, this distinction also has its origins in a restricted perception of the product.
To design from a global approach is necessary to properly identify the product and the service and understand the nature of their relationship. From this base, we will be able to see that, in fact, product and service are the same entity.
>Product and service identification
Example 1. A company selling phones
The product is, in principle, a phone. However, the company needs to inform where their stores are located, how the customer can buy a phone and what the price is.
No matter if the product is sold in a store or through a website. The client must interact with the company to select, purchase, receive, and use the phone. Without the service, clients cannot access the product. They cannot even use it if the instructions are not clear or the packaging is poorly designed.
Example 2. A telephone citizen service
In the case of service companies, it’s often difficult to know which is product. To be able to identify the product it may be useful to ask: What is that thing that clients get and that they hadn’t before? In this case, the product is information.
However, the client cannot access that information if no one picks up the phone, if the person answering is unfriendly, doesn’t understand the question or doesn’t know how to get the answer.
Example 3. A company of office cleaning services
What is that thing that clients get and that they hadn’t before? A clean office. That’s the product. The service is the work done by the person who cleans the office and the company in charge of coordinating the employees.
Example 4. A gym
In this case, the product is a healthier and/or slender body, depending on the needs of each person. But the client cannot obtain the product if it’s difficult to enroll in the gym, timetables are not suitable, teachers don’t do their job properly, the material is inappropriate, the facilities are too small, the changing rooms aren’t clean enough…
> The product and service unification
So far we’ve seen that products and services cannot exist without each other. In the same way that the client cannot access or use the product (be it a phone, a clean office or information) without a service, what is the sense of a store where nothing is sold, or a cleaning service that doesn’t clean offices?
Now we must step beyond. We pull away the point of view of the designer in order to take the customer’s place.
What does this picture tell us?
In this bookshop they understand that a person entering the shop doesn’t want just a book, in the same way that a person who enters a gym doesn’t want just to be fit.
The customer doesn’t look for a product. The client looks for an experience, an idea. And the experience is designed from the union of product and service. This has been understood by companies such as Nespresso.
Let us abandon the distinction between product and service design. While addressing the design of products and services separately allows us to achieve a high degree of specialization and sophistication, this adversely affects the outcome with which the client interacts.
Business design must be addressed in an integrated approach since only in this way it is possible to offer an overall experience to the client.