Service Innovation - Getting the Job Done

IdeaConnection Interview with Lance A. Bettencourt, Author of Service Innovation
By Vern Burkhardt
"True service innovation demands that a company expand its horizon beyond existing services and service capabilities and give its attention to the jobs that customers are trying to get done and the outcomes that they use to measure success...

VB: What led you to conclude that the "jobs-to-be-done" innovation theory is the correct approach to innovating services?

photo of Lance BettencourtDr. Lance A. Bettencourt: I tell my clients that while I don't know where Strategyn will be 20 years from now, I do know that the basic premise that customers hire products and services to get jobs done will still be true. The fact is that it has always been true.

I read an article in the September 17, 2010 issue of USA Today, for example, about vacationing in Amish country that read, "There's Wakarusa Hardware, where a wall of 1,000 wooden drawers has yielded what's needed to get the job done since 1904" (emphasis added). So, for me, it was just the recognition from personal and professional experience that customer jobs are the solution-independent reasons why customers use and rely on solutions, and this is true regardless of industry, geography, customer type, or solution type. Even in Amish country.

I was prompted to write my book when I realized that people involved with service innovation largely hadn't recognized this truth yet. There is a lot of problematic thinking out there. For example, some service innovation models begin with a new service idea already in mind. This makes me wonder, "Where did this idea come from?" and "How do you know the idea is a good one?" I believe there are a lot of executives who wonder the same thing.

As another example, many discuss service innovation and customer experience design as though they were the same thing. No doubt, a great customer experience is a wonderful thing. However, the problem with treating this approach as synonymous with service innovation is that it presumes service as a solution. Once you do this, you find yourself gathering customer requirements for the service you intend to deliver rather than gathering customer needs for the job customers would like you to help them get done – which may or may not be best helped by a service.

My book is all about helping companies to step away from today's solutions so they can gain a proper understanding of customer needs, which will provide the foundation for creating truly breakthrough services.

VB: "Jobs and outcomes provide the optimal road map for service innovation." Would you explain?

Lance A. Bettencourt: First and foremost, jobs and outcomes provide the optimal road map for service innovation because they represent the customer's needs. If you can meet those needs, then you are offering customers something that they truly value. In addition, jobs and outcomes have other characteristics that make them optimal. For instance, they state customers' needs independent of any presumed solution.

The importance of this cannot be stressed too much. It means that jobs and outcomes can be used not only to improve current services, but these same customer needs can also be used to create new-to-the-world services as well.

VB: "Once the job is accepted as the unit of analysis, the goal of innovation changes … The primary goal is to help customers get a specific job done better or to help them get more jobs done." Would you talk about this?

Lance A. Bettencourt: This is a very important point for getting service innovation right. So long as you're focused on service, whether on improving an existing service or creating a new one, your understanding of customer needs will be less than optimal to guide innovation.

If you make the job the focal point, if you focus on what customers are trying to accomplish, then you're free to talk to customers about their needs in a way that isn't constrained by the services you offer today or even those you might envision.

In my work with clients, I find that this is a hard mind-set to adopt. But you really have to look at customer needs from the customer's perspective rather than from an internal perspective of what services you might offer.

VB: You observe that most often customers measure success in terms of wanting to minimize something, such as time, likelihood, number, amount, or frequency. Does this mean the potential for service innovation is often best thought of as addressing problems that customers have?

Lance A. Bettencourt: Think of a service as something a customer hires to help get a particular job done. These jobs come in two distinct flavors: goals or objectives the customer is trying to achieve, such as losing weight, and problems the customer is trying to avoid or resolve, such as ridding a home of termites. Thus, service innovation is all about helping customers to either accomplish goals or avoid or resolve problems.

Now for any given job, customers also have measures of success. These are what we call outcomes. We talk to customers directly to uncover what these outcomes are, and they are certainly not limited to wanting to minimize something.

Practically speaking, however, we do find that customers often state their measures of success in terms of what they would like to minimize. They want things to be faster, so they talk about minimizing the time a process takes when doing a job. They want everything to proceed smoothly, so they talk about the problems and frustrations they would like to avoid. And, even when they talk about what optimal results should look like, it is often easiest for them to describe optimal results by talking about the less-than-optimal results they would like to avoid, such as an incorrect diagnosis when obtaining health care services or being audited when preparing income taxes.

VB: Does the approach you recommend help businesses be more creative when trying to identify new services or service feature enhancements they could offer existing or targeted new customers?

Lance A. Bettencourt: Absolutely. Of course, you knew I'd say that. But here's why.

I have found that the best creativity trigger in the world is a well-defined customer need. When customer needs are clearly defined as jobs and outcomes, they help a company to think of solutions in a way that goes beyond what they offer today because customer needs are not anchored around current services.

It's very exciting to share a prioritized list of customer jobs and outcomes with a client and see their eyes light up as they begin to talk excitedly about all the things they could do to satisfy them.

VB: What is a job map?

Lance A. Bettencourt: The job map is very important. I have received a lot of feedback over time from people who have been capturing customer needs for many years or those who are Six Sigma experts. They tell me that the job map really opened their eyes to a better way of understanding customer needs. And that, really, is the primary purpose of a job map.

It is a tool that makes it possible to systematically uncover a complete set of customer needs – outcomes, in this case, for getting a job done. Basically, the job map breaks the job down into a series of steps that the customer takes in getting the job done, and at each step, customer needs are captured. It is important that the job map steps be defined abstractly enough to reflect what the customer is trying to get done overall rather than what the customer might happen to be doing on any given day.

What customers do at any given moment often is just a solution, not an underlying job step, and those solutions can change. Recognizing this fact is a key "aha" for many clients.

For example, a dieter might keep a list of foods eaten in order to stay on track with the job of losing weight. It might be tempting to create a step on the job map titled "keep or maintain a list of foods eaten." However, if you were to do this, you would then end up capturing outcomes on keeping a list, such as "minimize the time it takes to document what has been eaten," rather than outcomes relating to staying on track with the diet. There could well be better ways to stay on track with a diet than keeping a list, but you're not going to find them if all your outcomes relate to list keeping. A better outcome for staying on track with a diet might be "minimize the likelihood that daily caloric intake exceeds a diet plan." This outcome would be much more informative for service innovation for a company like Weight Watchers. It frees them to consider how this outcome might best be satisfied, whether by keeping a list of foods eaten or some other approach.

So, the purpose of a job map is to guide the capturing of customer outcomes for getting a job done in a manner that provides insight into how customers measure value, independent of solutions.

VB: How does a service blueprint differ from a job map?

Lance A. Bettencourt: A service blueprint is a process map of the most common steps that a customer and company take today to receive and deliver a particular service. It reflects today's reality for most customers. As such, it is a map of how the current service solution is intended to work.

The primary purpose of a service blueprint is to design a new service offering or to look for possible design enhancements for a current service offering. In contrast, a job map is about what the customer must accomplish to get a job done.

A job map seeks to steer clear of what is being done at any given moment in favor of mapping the purpose behind what is being done. For example, suppose an insurance customer calls a claims center in order to submit a claim. A service blueprint would capture the step as "call claims" whereas a job map would capture the step as "submit a claim." This more general way of expressing what the customer is doing makes it possible to capture outcomes, from a customer perspective, about submitting a claim that may lead to improvements in how claims are presently submitted or to entirely new service approaches to submitting a claim. It's a subtle, but very important difference between mapping what is done and what the customer must accomplish to get a job done.

VB: Is it difficult to get customers to provide information about what jobs they want to get done and their desired outcomes?

Lance A. Bettencourt: It really isn't.

In my book, I share the most common questions that my colleagues and I ask to uncover both types of customer need – jobs and outcomes. The most important thing is knowing what you are after and then asking the right questions. I have taken this approach with services as diverse as health care, education, insurance, and banking. It also works equally well in B2B and B2C.

However, it is important to distinguish between getting customers to communicate their jobs and outcomes and being able to capture them. I give a lot of insight into how to ask the right questions in my book, but I also state quite clearly that listening for and capturing the needs that customers are sharing is a definite skill to be acquired over time.

After doing this for a long time, I can readily hear jobs and outcomes when customers are talking. There is no substitute for practice, practice, practice.

Now, we do hear from some clients that they are hesitant to just ask customers what they are trying to get done. Many are big believers in observation as a means of uncovering customer needs. In such cases, I tell them by all means to go for it.

The means by which you get the information is not as pivotal as knowing what you are after. I do believe, however, that it is critical to ask, not just observe. You can learn what a customer is doing from observation alone, but to learn the purpose behind what they are doing and the challenges they experience while trying to achieve that purpose, it's best to ask questions.

VB: One of the surprising points you make is that a company doesn't have to talk to a large number of customers or potential customers to gain an understanding for the innovation process – about 15 interviews of groups totaling 80 to 100 people. Does this suggest companies often waste a lot of needless time and money with large customer surveys to try to gain an understanding of where to focus attention for service innovation?

Lance A. Bettencourt: It is important to distinguish between two types of interviews that are discussed in the book and that are critical to any research endeavor to uncover customers' need priorities.

First, there are interviews of a qualitative nature. Those are intended to uncover customer jobs and outcomes.

Second, there are interviews – surveys – of a quantitative nature. Those are intended to prioritize customer jobs and outcomes with a representative sample of the customer population.

In the book I spend the bulk of my time talking about how to uncover customer jobs and outcomes because I believe this is where companies struggle most. And yes, it is certainly possible to do 10 to 15 total interviews and uncover the breadth of customer needs for a given customer type. This is so because we know what a customer need is, and we know what questions to ask to uncover them.

However, when it comes to prioritizing those needs our approach is no different from anyone else's in terms of traditional sampling confidence. As such, larger sample sizes always yield greater confidence that a particular result reflects the true priorities of the overall population – with diminishing returns.

When very important decisions are on the line, I would argue that a company should seek to have the same degree of confidence in its results, regardless of whether it is doing research on customer jobs and outcomes or on brand attitudes. The approach I describe for understanding customer needs is more efficient in the qualitative stage than other approaches. In the prioritizing stage, large samples are as beneficial for our approach as they are in other areas of market research.

VB: To be more useful, should customer satisfaction surveys be based on your universal job map?

Lance A. Bettencourt: I am glad you asked. I don't really address customer satisfaction research in my book.

Ultimately, I believe that a customer satisfaction survey should reflect how customers truly measure success in working with a particular service provider, rather than their opinions about features of the current service. Today, most customer satisfaction surveys ask about the features of the current service.

So, yes, I do think that there is a lot to be gained by focusing a customer satisfaction survey on what the customer is trying to get done, as reflected in a job map, and on the primary outcomes used to measure success at each step in getting a job done. If done this way, customer satisfaction surveys would also be much more diagnostic.

For example, a traditional customer satisfaction survey in a retail store might ask for customers' level of satisfaction with the presence of knowledgeable sales associates. The problem with this approach is that knowledgeable sales associates are simply a solution. 'Aha,' company managers think, 'we can improve our service offering by making sure our sales associates are knowledgeable.'

But unless managers learn why customers value a knowledgeable sales associate – what it is that customers expect a knowledgeable sales associate to help them with – they will still make less-than-optimal decisions regarding how to innovate their service offerings. Do they want sales associates to help them avoid mismatching outfits, keep current with fashion trends, or perhaps find particular items quickly?

If, on the other hand, managers discover that the outcome customers are most interested in achieving is speeding up the process of creating outfits, then they'll be able to consider solutions that include not only knowledgeable sales associates, but also interactive kiosks, helpful signage, product arrangements and merchandise displays showing potential outfits, clothing re-design, clothing labeling, and many other possibilities.

VB: Do the innovations in services that usually have the biggest impact most often involve customization?

Lance A. Bettencourt: In my book, I outline about 20 different design dimensions that describe the key ways in which services are delivered. One of these is the choice between customization and standardization. Certainly, it is an important dimension. However, there are other equally important dimensions, such as the choice between full service and self-service, or the choice between offering a limited or full menu of options to the customer.

Academic research leads to the conclusion that on any of the dimensions, none of the choices are inherently good or bad. Rather, they involve trade-offs, often related to the cost of service. So, for example, though customization can bring many benefits to the customer, it also typically comes with higher costs – though the digital age has enabled both customization and lower costs for some services – and greater risk of undesirable variability in service delivery.

There are many successful services that rely more on standardization than customization – think McDonalds and Wal-Mart. Every great service has to decide when standardization is more appropriate and when customization is more appropriate. It's never an all-or-nothing choice.

Beyond how services are designed and delivered, many truly breakthrough services focus on what is delivered to customers. The critical question to uncover what should be delivered to customers is, "What jobs are customers trying to get done?" And then, "For which of these are current solutions inadequate, unaffordable, or otherwise inaccessible?" These are the questions on which great services are founded, whether the service delivery model is relatively customized or standardized.

VB: You talk about service innovation ultimately depending on understanding both the functional jobs and the emotional jobs the customer is trying to get done. Is providing services that address customers' emotional jobs likely to provide more opportunities for innovation of services – or goods, for that matter – or does it work this way?

Lance A. Bettencourt: I believe that both emotional and functional jobs offer considerable opportunity for service innovation. I would not want to suggest one as relatively more important than the other for service success. Both are critical, though their relative importance certainly varies by type of service.

The two types of jobs play different roles in service innovation. I don't think it is a stretch to say that the majority of great service innovations focus first and foremost on helping customers to better satisfy a functional job. Google helps customers find information on a topic. Amazon helps customers purchase specific products. Zipcar helps customers run daily errands.

Now, for many services, especially those in which there is a key human element to service delivery, emotional jobs are also critical to success. However, they are typically more critical to designing how services are delivered than to what the service should do to help the customer. There are no absolutes, and there is always the exception. Think Starbucks.

The key point is that both functional and emotional jobs are critical, and you can systematically uncover and prioritize both from a customer perspective, which can then lead to the creation of breakthrough services.

VB: "It is those important, unsatisfactory outcomes that offer the best opportunities for core service innovation." Would you talk about this?

Lance A. Bettencourt: Customers rely on services – and goods, for that matter – to help them get jobs done. The focus of service innovation, therefore, is to help customers get a job or jobs done better.

The question is, "How is 'better' measured?" Customers' desired outcomes provide the measures of 'better.'

When a service primarily helps customers with one core job, the way to discover unique and valuable innovation opportunities for core company services is to uncover what outcomes customers use to measure success in getting this job done, and then to prioritize which of these outcomes are very important but not well satisfied by today's solutions. This approach provides companies with specific directions regarding what innovations they should undertake to deliver the most value from a customer perspective.

VB: When considering possible innovations for services, is one of the most difficult challenges developing a service strategy to satisfy customers' needs at an appropriate quality and price level and avoiding both costly 'overservicing' or standardizing at too low a level?

Lance A. Bettencourt: Yes. Next question.

Okay, I should probably say more! You are right on with this one. It is always tempting, especially for market leaders, to add more and more functions to the service offering. More options. More customization. More access. And so on.

However, these design choices come with very real costs. Some services can take this approach and succeed because there is generally a segment of the market that is willing to pay for more. The reciprocal is also true. There are other segments of the market that have different need priorities and would be willing to give up certain features for added convenience, simplicity, and lower price.

To develop breakthrough services, first you have to understand the need priorities of customers as a whole or of segments of customers, and then you must ask several questions. What needs do we want to satisfy better than the competition? What needs are we willing to satisfy less completely in order to deliver optimal value from a customer perspective? Based on the needs we have targeted, what design choices will best ensure value from both a customer and company perspective? In chapters 7 and 8 of my book dealing with new service strategy and differentiation, I offer other questions like these that a firm must consider to ensure the proper trade-offs are made. This is the essence of good strategy.

VB: When talking about service delivery innovation, you say, "The goal for any service provider is to leave the customer with a positive last impression." Does this suggest that employees of service providers should be empowered much more than they often are by their employers?

Lance A. Bettencourt: As in the case of the customization-versus-standardization question, I think it depends.

Another of the design dimensions I discuss in chapter 7 is empowerment versus control. It must be recognized that empowerment comes with costs. The value from a customer and/or company perspective must justify these additional costs. As before, however, it's not all or nothing.

cover of Service InnovationCompanies like Ritz Carlton and Target provide arenas of empowerment in which their employees can do what is necessary to satisfy the customer, but these arenas have certain boundaries – usually financial ones. Thus, these employees have some empowerment, but not complete empowerment.

Also, there are many ways to leave the customer with a positive last impression quite apart from their interaction with employees. How simple was the bill to understand? Was your bread packed with your detergent at the grocery store? Was the smoking section right near the exit of the airport? These are all considerations for service design whose relative importance can be determined by taking a close look at customers' desired outcomes relating to obtaining service.

VB: "When conflicts arise in satisfying customers' outcomes, they should be viewed as opportunities to take a new service delivery approach that challenges conventional industry wisdom. Many breakthrough services … have done just that." Is this also often a high-risk approach?

Lance A. Bettencourt: I don't think so.

It's all about making well-informed choices on the basis on knowing what customers value and then actively considering which design choices will deliver the most value based on customer priorities. I was just teaching an executive MBA class at Texas Christian University yesterday when a student shared an example of this. His business was cancer treatment. He indicated that there was a trade-off among some patients who wanted to continue treatments beyond the standard guideline and insurance companies who wanted to contain costs and had therefore traditionally limited how many treatments they would cover. The student said that one insurance provider had resolved this conflict by establishing a guideline that said that 80% or more of reimbursements must be for patients who receive the standard or fewer treatments. For the other 20%, physicians and patients were allowed to go beyond the standard number of treatments and still get reimbursement. Since the number of cases in which patients or doctors actually seek additional treatments is generally less than this, this solution offers a workable compromise that takes into account the needs of all parties.

VB: When talking about the strategic service design dimensions, you mention the dimension of high to low commitment of an organization – whether employees are viewed as assets and a value to the company or as disposable resources. Isn't a low-commitment organization inevitably destined for failure?

Lance A. Bettencourt: To a certain extent, yes. Certainly I believe that companies should provide a basic level of commitment to all their service employees.

However, I still include this design dimension because it must be recognized that higher-commitment practices, such as higher salaries, benefits, and development opportunities, come with real costs. And it's not an all-or-nothing proposition.

A company could choose to be high commitment on some dimensions and low commitment on other dimensions. It could choose to be high commitment to some employee groups and low commitment to other employee groups.

Thus, while I certainly believe that there is something inherently wonderful about advocating high commitment in all areas and toward all, I don't think it is realistic. A company has to choose what degree of commitment it can make, and it should make this choice with an understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of the choice in the context of the customer needs it has targeted, and its business model.

VB: What is a "consumption chain job," and is innovation in this area almost always incremental?

Lance A. Bettencourt: A consumption chain job is any task that your customer must do to get the value out of your product or service. In other words, it is not the reason the product or service exists, but it's something that must be done to get the benefit promised by the product or service.

For example, a medical device might help a surgeon replace a hip joint. This is the reason the product exists, and we can study this core job to uncover ways to improve the function in the device. However, for the device to deliver its value for this job, someone must select the device for adoption, purchase the device, and clean the device if it is reusable. And the surgeon must learn to use the device, and then actually use it to get the job done.

If you're aiming for product innovation, then yes, focusing on a consumption chain job relating to the product is likely to lead to the addition of features to the current product platform. I don't think it would necessarily be correct to call this incremental innovation, however, because such changes can be immensely valuable to the customer. In the service realm, for example, Progressive Insurance rose to prominence not because they offered better protections than other insurance companies, but because they offered a better approach to purchasing insurance and getting a claim satisfied.

I took a special look at consumption chain jobs in the book precisely because many product companies can look to consumption chain jobs for opportunities for new and improved services. Dell is an example of a company that built its very successful business model around the selection and purchase of a personal computer – both among consumers and business customers.

VB: You have found that in interpersonal service encounters, "customers want employees to be polite, willing to help, sincere, knowledgeable, patient, caring, and enthusiastic. They want employees to instill confidence, display understanding, express concern, give them undivided attention, and know the customer's personal situation." Why do you think companies so often miss this mark in their actual provision of service to their customers – isn't this almost the minimum for survival in the increasingly competitive business world of the 21st century?

Lance A. Bettencourt: One of the basic challenges of providing any service that is delivered by people is quality control. Controlling the quality of output delivered by people involves a lot more than simply specifying the desired quality output and designing the system to ensure this. Operations, marketing, and human resources all come together to ensure quality service delivery, and even then, it is not an exact science.

That said, it is also true that properly specifying what quality means and designing the system to deliver on quality specifications is critical. To properly do this, a company needs to know how customers evaluate quality at each step in obtaining service. Then it can optimize design choices with customers' need priorities in mind.

Too many service companies today emphasize the measurement of service quality in terms of service encounters with employees rather than looking beneath the surface to understand what customers are trying to get done in each of these encounters. My chapters on obtaining and providing service and on service design dimensions are intended to change that approach.

VB: You have worked with many companies using your methodology. When you first discuss with executives and innovation leaders the concept that "people hire goods and services to get jobs done," do they often have difficulty understanding how it is a better approach than focusing on existing services and service capabilities?

Lance A. Bettencourt: Usually not. Just like I discuss in the book, we try to introduce what we do and the jobs-to-be-done way of thinking as a method for understanding customer needs that can lead to either improved products and services or entirely new products and services.

Companies are desperate to understand customer needs in a way that moves beyond current solutions, so linking what we do to what companies are trying to get done – their job – really resonates with them.

Even in our approach, there is a place for focusing on current services and service capabilities. The difference is that we understand the place for these considerations and how to get beyond them in a systematic and meaningful way. And that is why I wrote the book.

VB: Do people you work with often tell you the methodology for designing services makes their head spin because it involves so many choices and asking so many questions?

Lance A. Bettencourt: Unfortunately, markets are complex. There are many different potential customer groups, each with one or more jobs that they are trying to get done. It can be overwhelming. However, it is not the jobs-to-be-done thinking or the Outcome-Driven Innovation methodology that makes it this way. It simply is.

All companies need to make choices about where they will focus their precious resources – which markets and which opportunities within markets. Market prioritization can be a scary thing because every "yes" to one option is also a "no" to some other option. However, this is not new to our methodology.

What I try to offer my clients is a way of thinking through their options so that they won't be blindsided and so they can discover the best point of focus from among the available choices. My clients can at least find reassurance in knowing that they have considered all their possible options, and in such a way that they can move beyond the solutions of today.

VB: Once they understand, do they usually become converts to this methodology and take steps to use it as their main tool for ongoing innovation efforts?

Lance A. Bettencourt: We have been encouraged in recent years by the number of our clients who have become "regulars."

We are having ongoing success, for example, with companies like Kroll, Dunn & Bradstreet, and Ingersoll-Rand. It is very exciting because there is no doubt that the key innovation champions within these corporations get it, and they have become evangelists.

As a company, we are continuously improving what we do on behalf of, and in partnership with, our clients so that we can support these evangelists and, ultimately, help our clients to be successful.

VB: Do you have one or two examples of advisory work you have done for companies that are your favorites in terms generating relatively radical or surprising ideas for new service, core service, service delivery, or supplementary innovations?

Lance A. Bettencourt: In the book, I share a few of my favorite examples of each that have come from working with companies such as Microsoft, Kroll, Ceridian, Abbott Medical Optics, and Ingersoll-Rand. I hasten to add that my colleagues are critical to many of these successes.

I just finished working with Microsoft Bing Travel on a project, and it has quickly become one of my favorites because of the richness of insight we were able to uncover and because of the client's excitement over what it can do to differentiate itself in the leisure travel market. Things are still in progress there, so I'm afraid there are no details to share, but our work to date promises to lead them in a meaningful way for some time to come.

VB: Does probing and asking questions come naturally to you, or is it a learned skill?

Lance A. Bettencourt: Before I worked with Strategyn, I was a professor. I believe that one thing my current role has in common with my role as a professor is the need to think on my feet as part of an ongoing dialogue. It suits me; I really enjoy that dynamic. Thus, I would have to say that, at least in part, my ability to probe and ask questions is innate.

However, I have also grown immensely in my ability while at Strategyn. I really believe that the more ingrained the idea of jobs and outcomes becomes in your mind, the more able you are to hear jobs and outcomes in the speech of customers and to probe to get beneath the surface when the conversation demands this. This is certainly what I tell the clients I train.

Knowing what a good need statement looks like is half the battle. Another quarter of the battle comes from asking the right questions to begin the conversation. I address this in detail in my book. That final quarter of the battle is where the real skills come in as you respond in real-time to what the customer is telling you, and you probe further as needed to capture the jobs and outcomes that the customer is sharing with you.

VB: You provide examples of work you've done with many companies and reveal considerable detail about what new business ideas emerged. Did very many companies refuse to give you permission to include them for fear of sharing their business secrets with competitors?

Lance A. Bettencourt: This is a tricky area. None of the clients I asked for the book refused. However, I was aware beforehand that some clients would not be willing to share the details – so those I didn't ask. At the same time that I wanted to shed light on how the process outlined in the book works, I also wanted to respect the legitimate concerns of my clients and enhance their reputation for innovation as well.

VB: When you are experiencing services being provided by companies, are you sometimes tempted to ask to see the owner or manager in charge and offer to help them develop a service strategy that makes sense from the customers' perspective, comparisons with their competition, or what would be good for the company?

Lance A. Bettencourt: I've never actually been tempted to ask to see an owner or manager with my services in mind. I believe that my book has some very valuable insights to offer, but I don't pretend to be anything more than I am.

There are many brilliant minds out there, and some of them have the title manager or owner. When asked, I love to help. Otherwise, I am content to just enjoy the service provided by others.

VB: Would you tell us about the services Strategyn, Inc. provides?

Lance A. Bettencourt: Broadly speaking, Strategyn provides two distinct types of services. First, we offer consulting services related to innovation management within an organization. Second, we offer executive education in innovation management practices. In both areas, we are continuing to add to our offerings to better satisfy our client's high-priority jobs.

Our consulting services range from helping companies define and prioritize which markets to enter and exit to helping companies gain a deep understanding of customer needs in order to formulate an innovation strategy in a particular market. The latter includes decisions about which new platforms to create, technologies to pursue, acquisitions to consider, pipeline initiatives to fund, and products and services to develop. Some of our clients choose more of a do-it-yourself approach, while many others choose to partner with us to guide strategy development in multiple markets over time.

VB: What led you to move from academia to being Strategy Adviser with Strategyn?

Lance A. Bettencourt: When you're teaching a professional subject such as business, and, in my case, marketing specifically, it is advantageous to have experience working with companies who are doing the things you are teaching about. Many professors do this by way of consulting while fulfilling their other job responsibilities. Certainly, that was an option for me. However, I knew that I wanted in-depth insight not only into my client's worlds, but also into what it's like to do this kind of work day in and day out. So I decided to take a different route.

Strategyn's services offer me a perfect opportunity to do the practical work while also thinking about what I'm doing, and that has only become truer as we have increased the amount of training we offer to clients over the years.

In the work I do, I get to advise my clients on how to succeed with their innovation process. This is the perfect role for a former academic because I get to blend my knowledge of the specific problems the client is facing with a bigger-picture view of marketing, innovation, and strategy that come from my academic roots. I often refer back to my favorite conceptual models to gain insights that I can share with my clients – I truly believe that there is nothing more helpful in business than a good theory or conceptual model. I hope that I have been able to provide this type of guidance to the readers of my book also.

VB: While your book focuses on service innovation, you say, "Customers do not buy goods or services: they buy offerings which render services which create value … The traditional division between goods and services is long outdated." The jobs-and-outcomes focus for innovation therefore applies equally well to goods?

Lance A. Bettencourt: Yes, absolutely. Customers hire both products and services to get jobs done. In fact, one of the benefits of approaching innovation from this perspective is that the same set of high-opportunity customer jobs and outcomes can lead to innovation in the form of improved goods, services, solution bundles, processes, software, and more. Most of Strategyn's clients and my own personal consulting clients are companies that primarily sell tangible goods.

In fact, that was part of the motivation for writing the book. While many service companies have worked with Strategyn because they understand how jobs and outcomes could apply to their innovation challenges, I realized that many others did not, or we would have had a higher percentage of services clients. Also, I would sometimes get a question one or two days into training that puzzled me: "How does this apply to services?"

To me, it was very evident, but I came to realize that unless something was written to explain specifically how jobs and outcomes apply to service innovation, some would simply not get it. Of course, service innovation has some unique elements, and I certainly call these out in the book.

Still, as I say in the conclusion, "My goal is not to offer a distinct model for service innovation, but rather, to show how an effective and efficient model for innovation applies both to products and services" (Service Innovation, page 221).

VB: Who should read your book?

Lance A. Bettencourt: The book is primarily intended for those within organizations who are either responsible for gaining customer insight to guide service innovation or who are responsible for creating new and improved services. But I believe that the book will benefit anyone who wants to understand customer value in order to make better business decisions.

When I do executive training, it is quite common to have people in the room who will never go out and do a formal study of customer jobs and outcomes to guide service innovation. Yet, they still benefit from learning how to think about customer value and what questions to ask to gain a deeper and richer understanding of customer needs.

When I am training, I try to emphasize a way of thinking as much as a systematic approach to innovation. I hope that readers of my book can come away with a better way of thinking as well, even if their job does not entail doing a formal study of customer needs.

Also, I have written the book to be relevant to anyone interested in guiding service innovation within their organization, whether in service or product companies. This would include executives with product, innovation, marketing, service quality, operations, customer service, strategy, and business development responsibilities.

VB: Do you have any other advice you would like to share about service innovation?

Lance A. Bettencourt: Honestly, I have really poured out my knowledge into the book. Of course, my own knowledge is always developing, but I can think of no better place to begin to gain a foothold on how to approach service innovation than my book. My sincere desire is that the book is helpful to those who read it.

I would encourage IdeaConnection readers to consider what I have to say not only as a systematic approach to service innovation, but more fundamentally, as a way of thinking. While there is a time and place for taking a systematic approach to detailing the unmet needs of customers in a given market, there is also immense value to be gained from shifting how you think about customer needs and applying this changed way of thinking to day-in, day-out work responsibilities.

Author Lance Bettencourt advises that innovation of new services has fallen into the trap of capturing requirements on the solution rather than customer needs—the same trap that has often plagued product innovation.

Four ways to look for service innovation opportunities are identified, together with key questions to ask:

  1. New service innovation – new and related jobs that the customer wants to accomplish.

  2. Core service innovation – improving a current service or introducing entirely new services and service models.

  3. Service delivery innovation – improving how a service is delivered to customers by identifying the outcomes they use to judge success when obtaining service.

  4. Supplementary service innovation – helping the customer get jobs done that are related to owning and using a product.

The author's 4-step description of how to develop a successful service strategy indicates how to achieve service innovation as a systematic and repeatable process. The 'universal job map' for documenting what customers are trying to get done is a valuable tool for discovering opportunities for service innovation. And this tool is provided and described in Service Innovation!

Lance A. Bettencourt's Bio:
Dr. Lance Bettencourt is a former professor of marketing at Indiana University. He is Strategy Adviser at Strategyn Consulting and is an expert in product and service innovation, marketing strategy, and research design and analysis. As Strategy Adviser, he has supported innovation initiatives at some of the world's leading companies.

Through Strategyn's educational arm, Strategyn Institute, Lance Bettencourt provides customized education programs, including developing customized executive education programs.

He has worked with many of Strategyn's clients including Microsoft Corporation, Colgate-Palmolive, Hewlett-Packard Company, TD Bank Financial Group, Kimberly-Clark, Abbott Medical Optics, Chiquita Brands, and Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Rockwell Collins, Neenah Paper, Trend Micro, Masco Corporation, Covidien, Hospira, American Medical System, Ingersoll-Rand, and Pershing.

Lance Bettencourt is the author of Service Innovation: How to Go From Customer Needs to Breakthrough Services (2010). He has published dozens of articles on marketing strategy and innovation in both academic and practitioner publications. Recent contributions include "Debunking Myths About Customer Needs," (Marketing Management, January-February 2009), "The Customer-Centered Innovation Map" (Harvard Business Review, May 2008), "Giving Customers a Fair Hearing" (Sloan Management Review, Spring 2008), and "Client Co-Production in Knowledge Intensive Business Services" (California Management Review, Summer 2002).

Lance Bettencourt contributes to the Harvard Business Review's Blog Network.

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