But things are changing, partly due to the increased complexity of items we buy, and partly because of the internet. The photo above shows the material that came with my wife’s 2004 Acura TRX, a relatively simple car. The manual for the “navigation system” itself seems to require almost 100 pages, although it is dwarfed by the 350 page owner's manual. An article in the August 26th 2012 New York Times reports on the new Cadillac XTS sedan, raving about its features and mentioning that the automobile comes complete with an i-pad loaded with a training app so that drivers can learn the CUE system which apparently accomplishes various digital miracles in the car. It definitely sounds like one would not repair failures oneself. Access to service is needed from initially understanding and learning to use the car, to maintaining the car over its life.
It is good business to integrate “products” with “services”. This can be seen from the effort by software-based companies to move us from computers, dvd’s, external memory drives, and such things to the “cloud”. Automobile ads mention, if not emphasize “leasing” instead of buying. We own our TV sets, but are dependent on a cable company for programs, service, and use of the “box”.
An interesting mixture of service and product can be seen in medicine. There is an article entitled Big Med, by Atul Gawande, my favorite physician/writer, in the August 13/20, 2012 edition of the New Yorker magazine. I discussed three books Gawande has written in my post of Nov 11, 2011. He feels that medical care must improve in quality, as well as in knowledge and in such things things as improved technology and medications.
In his article he chooses a restaurant chain (Cheesecake Factory) as an example of delivering good product and service at low cost and with impressive consistency, and speculates what medical care could learn from it. In his books he refers often to outstanding, and usually specialized clinics, and procedures that result in fewer errors and decreased cost. Not surprisingly, there is great resistance to such things from many members of the medical profession, as well as patients who prefer the traditional “family doctor” approach.
Gawande’s suggested approaches have many similarities to the efforts made world-wide in the manufacturing industry during the 1980’s and 1990’s. which radically improved quality, while decreasing cost. Automobiles are considered products. Medical care is considered a service. Clearly there are parallels that are applicable to both, including the need to integrate products and services and increase the quality of what is provided to the customer.
My blog name, People and Products focusses more on products, because that is where my experience lies, but I will certainly mention service from time to time, because the two must be integrated.