Tuesday 29 March 2011

From product to service: stealing first base?

The other day I read a post about how someone in a poor country is making a living by taking his washing machine across town (rather: slum) and selling it "by the wash", thus turning a product into a service. The rationale in this specific case is cheap washing machines from abroad pushing existing ones down the sales ladder

While I admire the entrepreneurial spirit here, I wonder whether this actually does good or bad. Yes it's a smart move to create a new market when your current one is under pressure, but what if your neighbour does the same with one of them new cheapo laundromats? Even worse, what if one of them cheap labour fellas comes overhere and starts competing with you?

In the Social world, I see a lot of people turning products into service on purpose, even going so far as to label the good old-fashioned products, or goods as we all know them, as "productised services"
Now as I can only guess or assume why they do this, I think it is so they can move people in between product and customer, and Socialise the heck out of it all. A product is a good you can make, sell, ship, toss, but a service is something else - it's something tailor made to you! Pretty much like the Emperor's clothes were tailor made...

The distinction is even made between services and professional services (definitions are hard to come by, apparently), as if there would be amateur services as well, for instance.
I am not particularly pleased by this latter move of placing people in between products and customers. I'm a big fan of automation, whether that is industrialisation in general, applications or systems, or just having a watch you never have to wind.

Conveniently ignoring the byproducts of all that, I think we can be a lot nicer to ourselves and others when we step up Maslow's pyramid thanks to the discontinued need to use our body where that can be done (so much better?) by machines.
Washing, lawn-mowing, heating kettles over fires, etc. - I visit "medieval theme parks" every now and then and can tell you it takes about 5 minutes to light a fire if you're a pro, and a day to grind the grains for one loaf of bread

So I appreciate services from other people: others doing work I should do. Others taking their time to light my fire, grind my grains for my loaf.
But of course it's even better when they own their fire and grains, let me alone and just sell me the end-product, right? Right. That's why there are bakeries in stead of people who sow your grains, harvest your crop, or mill your weeds - those days are past

Now Social has gone mainstream, we can expect old tricks to appear at our doorsteps. Like the policeman standing in the middle of the sidewalk shouting "Nothing to see here! Please do move on!" or very much like the picture above - it leaves room for only one assumption, doesn't it?
Well, don't fall for it. They might appear to be stealing base on first sight, but when you look closer, you'll see they're actually "stealing" first

Or, in Hugh MacLeod's vision:

Sleep tight. Don't let the bed bugs bite

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