It Pays to "Productize" Customer Services

(Originally published as a Customer Service column in the
August 2000 issue of AFSMI's The Professional Journal.)

By William K. Pollock

There are many advantages to "productizing" your business's customer service and support offerings. Just as in the product segment, where a brand name and its associated levels of awareness, image and market positioning can draw customers to your business, customer service and support can also be positioned to benefit from the same marketing and promotional advantages. However, in most cases, they must first be "productized."

In general terms, "productization" means simply taking an otherwise generic type of service or support offering, and redefining and packaging it more as a "product" offering. For example, if your organization provides a variety of computer-related customer services to both the business and consumer markets, you may wish to "productize" these offerings to appeal to each market directly. By differentiating and packaging your offerings as either "professional computer services for the business community" and "professional-style computer services for the home or school PC user" may be one way of doing so.

Larger businesses may also benefit from "productizing" their customer service and support offerings by individual business segment, such as "small office/home office (SOHO) business services", "retail office business services", medical office business services" and so forth. In many cases, if all your business does is advertise that it can provide customer service in general, that message alone may not be attractive enough to entice a bank, hospital or legal office to respond to one of its advertisements.

In each of these examples, potential customers may believe that your company only has a general capability to support computers, but not enough expertise to support "my special business segment." Again, by packaging and promoting your services in a business-specific "productized" manner, you can convey the dual messages that you can provide the support, and you know the business segment.

Of course, your business will most likely need some additional market information before it is able to effectively "productize" its offerings. The market research required to build the proper foundation upon which to "productize" your services should consist of a combination of secondary and primary research directed toward the goal of identifying, defining, analyzing and assessing the types and breadth of customer service and support offerings presently being used by your targeted markets, as well as an assessment of what competitive service "products" are already being offered in the marketplace.

The market research should address the following key areas:

  • Definitions, descriptions, components and classifications of each individual service and support offering being considered;
  • Service product packaging (i.e., in terms of whether the service would be sold as a standalone and/or "bundled" product with other service offerings);
  • Pricing methodology (i.e., whether the services will be priced on a retail or discounted basis, etc.);
  • Mode of delivery (i.e., how the service will be delivered to the end user);
  • Business segment focus (i.e., to what specific segments will the service be offered, and should this require segment-specific marketing and promotional literature, etc.); and
  • Summary comparisons, assessments and critiques of what other competitive offerings may already be available.
Since many of your competitors may have already moved toward the "productization" of their customer service and support offerings, now may be the most opportune time for your business to move forward as well. A good place to start would be with respect to conducting basic market research. One way of doing so would be as follows:
  • Collect competitive brochures and sales literature, on a discreet basis, to learn more about how your competitors are packaging and promoting their service offerings;
  • Survey the Internet and on-line database services to supplement, support and corroborate the information initially obtained from the marketing literature; and
  • Talk to your customers about what they see as the principal benefits and advantages of using your customer service and support offerings, and integrate these findings along with the external market data and information you have been collecting from the competition.
At the conclusion of your assessment and evaluation of all of the collected data and materials, you should be in a much better position to "productize" your principal service and support offerings, and cross-check them against both the needs and wants of your customers, and the alternative offerings provided by your competitors.

If the market believes that all you are offering is a generic set of commodity-like service and support offerings, but that your competitors have more clearly defined service and support "packages" designed specifically for their business, they will be more likely to go to the competition than to you. However, by "productizing" your offerings in a manner that reflects the specific attributes, benefits and advantages required by each individual business segment, you should also stand to benefit from the differentiated market positioning of your overall portfolio of service and support offerings.


William K. Pollock is president of Strategies For GrowthSM (SFGSM), the Westtown, Pennsylvania-based services consulting firm specializing in strategic business planning, services marketing, CRM consulting, market/survey research, and customer satisfaction measurement and tracking programs. Bill may be reached at 610-399-9717 or via e-mail at wkp@s4growth.com.


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