In the days of the guilds, the quality of the performance was the focus of interest and the figurehead of the masters, the responsible manufacturers. In the last two hundred years specialties have evolved with the advancing division of labor. As a result, the focus has shifted – from the product to fulfilling a subtask. The actual products have receded into the background. The success of the individual areas is determined by the continuous refinement of the particular abilities:
- The development is delivering more and more prototypes,
- The production produces ever more at lower cost,
- The sales department is always acquire new customer groups and
- The marketing delivers ever new campaigns.
As a result, the business units lose sight of the actual services and act based on the look at their own value creation that always covers only partial aspects. This goes so far that start-ups market their business idea before the actual product is available, leading to major, unnecessary efforts that have no effect. And this, although it is generally known: Form follows function.
The venture depends above all on the most convenient offer for which the customer is ready to pay – be it goods or services. A description of the available features is crucial to ensure that the various tasks are performed with minimum effort. The following points are of great value to the overview of the articles and services.
- The service core
fulfills the wishes of the clients – an MP3 player plays music; a hotel night offers a hotel room, incl. room service and breakfast; a Swiss knife cuts, screws, drills, saws, lights, up to a total of 56 parts in one tool.
The service core can be identified with the following questions: Which customer needs are satisfied? Which features are required? What is relevant to the clients?
- The design
of the products happens almost by itself due to their physicality. The material must be selected, shaped, provided with a surface and colored. Intangible services can also be designed. The dealing with customers, such as friendliness and empathy, the reliable activities, such as consulting, training, advertising, and catering or the administration of facilities consist of processes and employee behaviors, which also can be designed. Nowadays, design not only serves as a temptation to buy, but also influences the entire life cycle of a deliverable –
for physical products: from economic production and warehousing, through ergonomics and a predetermined lifespan, durability and ease of maintenance, to disposal; for services: from planning, through development and operation, to the sun downing of an offer.
These design aspects can be identified with the following questions: How do customers perceive the services? How does the design influence the customers – and the life cycle? What other advantages can be achieved with minimal effort?
- The add-on services
include further offers for the customers, which are available free of charge or for a fulfillment fee of the core tasks. This ranges from supplemental assistance in the use and maintenance of the services, through extensive accessories, to performance-related tips as well as platforms for exchanging ideas, e.g. with online communities.
The following questions provide some ideas: What else do the customers want? Which add-ons can be offered right away with little effort? Do the supplemental services increase customer loyalty or even the sales?
- The brand aspects
are the unconscious forces of attraction that bind the customers of a product or service to the company. Established brands, the name or logo, the type of advertising and key images already evoke positive associations – e.g. the famous Marlboro man or the Mercedes star, the elaborate Apple trailers or the Mazda humming, all trigger in the best case positive feelings in the audience – and they become part of the brand with the purchase.
The brand aspects can be determined with the following questions: How does the customer perceive the company? Do the products match the brand? Do we send messages that do not match our desired image? Which activities support the brand?
Bottom line: The points described the service core, the design, the add-on services and the brand aspects are essential components of the business activity. Nevertheless, these points of view are rather late or not at all formulated. They are the meat of the deliverables. These descriptions influence the perception of the customer’s and, at various points, the life cycle of the services. A lot of momentum gets lost when the developers, manufacturers, and sales people have a different understanding of the deliverables. Describe your product, because form without function wastes already scarce resources.
It’s surprising that after many years of having the team on the agenda, companies are still struggling to capitalize on the additional treasures of grouping employees into working teams. The promotion of individual careers, the artificially fueled competition for credit points and the lack of informal opportunities to exchange information hamper a relationship based on cooperation. Usually the individual criteria are still used to evaluate the performances. Individuals are in the focus – although that puts a strain on trustful cooperation.
The company or rather its representatives do little to ensure that this additional advantage can arise. Even though there is an agile momentum nowadays and everyone wants the appropriate commitment from the employees, there does not exist
- the necessary, open structures,
- agile workplaces and meeting rooms to meet spontaneously,
- new distribution mechanisms for resources, or
- executives, who renounce any micro management.
It can actually not exist as long as the decision-makers themselves are only employees in a multilayered hierarchy. Perhaps it helps to realize that a group of employees is more than the sum of the individual experiences – when more can be said and heard.
- The senders have more thoughts than they can express
The collaboration thrives on ideas that are exchanged within the team. The difficulty is the fact that much of the thoughts that a team member thinks about, cannot be completely shared. Many aspects are lost during the transfer into language and images. Through generalizations, the use of classifications, unspoken assumptions and the use of ambiguous terms, important contents are filtered out.
Example: All sales people follow the sales process with the conviction that anything is possible. Their credo is AIDAS. Why can’t this be improved through intensive cooperation? We need agile procedures.
In the example, many facts remain unspoken: Sales people? Sales process? What is possible? AIDAS? What makes cooperation intensive? Agile? The sender knows more, but does not express it more comprehensive.
- The receivers determine the content of the perceived
The exchange of ideas requires that everybody notices the thoughts of others. Since all people perceive through different channels, sometimes the spoken and sometimes the written word and sometimes a picture or a series of numbers are worth than a thousand words – as long as you do not miss the message. In any case, the target group is responsible for interpreting the statements. The path into consciousness uses the already existing thoughts and mental patterns of the target persons to enrich the contents with useful knowledge in their mind.
Example: Jim and John have been working in sales for a long time and use for weeks Clickfunnels to collect 1500 new contacts every day, so-called leads, which they prioritize with their software module in order to turn in just one week the most interesting contacts into interested customers, who are willing to meet with our sales people.
The example shows that the receiver immediately adjusts the perceived to his ideas: Jim and John are salespeople; Clickfunnels seems to be related to the sales process; 1500 leads per day are possible; the rest, e.g. the agile, has disappeared. The recipient has enriched some messages while hiding others.
- Mutual discourse expands the comprehension
Actually, everything is works as desired. The sender communicates and the receiver understands what he can. In fact, the receiver only bears the whole thing in mind so far. In order to share the experiences, everybody in the group must become a sender and share their feedbacks. The target people perceive the contributions again and link the contents with their ranges of experience. The ideas are further processed to a more comprehensive, joint result by mutually asking questions. The more intensive the exchange of ideas, the more comprehensive becomes the overall understanding.
Example: How do we reach Jim and John? Who should join? What exactly does Clickfunnels? How can we use the results for needs analysis? How do we increase our flexibility?
The example is not about rhetorical questions, but about filling gaps of understanding and creating a common picture. Once the saturation level is reached, the team works together more effectively and efficiently based on this consensus.
The magic of teamwork arises when employees can exchange ideas free from conventions and constraints – when they don’t have to be afraid of disadvantages due to their active participation. In order to achieve the desired effect, they need the appropriate freedom, both psychologically and physically. Not everything works out. But there is a good example that illustrates the opportunities. Let’s remember the Post-It story. Spencer Silver had invented in the sixties a glue that did not stick permanently. It was only when Arthur Fry had in church the idea to mark his hymnbook with sticky bookmarks that the idea of Post-It was born – today 50 billion sticky notes are sold annually. On average, everyone uses at work eleven sticky notes a day.
Bottom line: Without the corporate culture of the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (now 3M), this cultural artifact would probably not exist. For decades, it has been a showcase that you must allow the development of new ideas full bent. At the same time, it shows that people can complement each other extraordinarily. All companies need to do is to provide the appropriate conditions. Employees need the space, the time and the mutual discourse to produce results that individuals simply cannot achieve. There is always more than is said and heard.