A process is not a service

Processes are clearly defined, linked, linear chains of cause-and-effect, that, when managed carefully, drive predictable, reliable results.

 

But a service is different. Processes are designed to be consistent and uniform, while services are co-created with customers. Think of the difference between a speech and a conversation. A speech is a monologue. Like a process, it can be designed in advance and can be delivered the same way every time, with a relatively consistent effect. But a conversation is different. Two conversations may start the same way, but they will always evolve differently, because conversations are about interaction as opposed to delivery.

 

A process mindset is useful for manufacturing products, where you want the outcomes to be reliably uniform. But a consistent process is only successful for a small subset of the service world, where you want the outcome to be predictable and consistent – for example the McDonald’s drive-through service.

A process is an inside-out view. Its focus is on the company and its internal capabilities. A service is an outside-in view, because services are constructed around the customer’s wants and needs.

 

Think of a personal service, like a haircut. A haircut is highly customized. It is designed and delivered in a real-time conversation between the person delivering the service and his or her client.

 

Embedded in the word process is the idea of motion. Its Latin root is procedere, which means “go forward,” a root that it shares with the word proceed. But embedded in the word service is a different idea; the concept of a relationship between server and served. The value of a service is in the quality of that interaction between the two.

 

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Taken on October 30, 2011