Service Innovation: How to Go from Customer Needs to Breakthrough Services

Ben Lowe (Kent Business School, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK)

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Article publication date: 1 November 2011




Lowe, B. (2011), "Service Innovation: How to Go from Customer Needs to Breakthrough Services", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 20 No. 7, pp. 557-557.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Service Innovation distinguishes between service innovation and service development. In doing so it addresses the critical interface between services and the development of innovations. Much has been written about service development, but far less has been written about service innovation. That is where this book makes its contribution, by presenting a perspective and process on how companies can successfully create breakthrough service innovations; a surprisingly neglected area of thinking given the contribution of services to many economies, and the widely acknowledged importance of innovation to economic growth.

Implicitly drawing on Levitt's concept of Marketing Myopia, Bettencourt argues that many companies spend too much time focusing on the product and improving its delivery to customers, and not enough time on trying to understand customer needs, thereby serving them most effectively. Bettencourt illustrates this with some apt examples. For example, “I don't need a doctor, a physical exam, or a prescription. What I need is a diagnosis and treatment for an illness” (p. xxi). He uses examples such as WebMD and home pregnancy tests to illustrate the point.

Integral to the book's premise is the notion of the “customer job, ” which is an analogy used to illustrate that we as customers have jobs that need to be performed, and we hire services to perform these jobs (e.g., “We hire a search engine to locate information” (p. xxiii)). By focusing on what the customer is trying to accomplish, and by understanding what job they are “hiring” a service to perform, Bettencourt argues that companies can focus on providing services that perform that job most efficiently and therefore satisfy customer needs more appropriately, rather than building a better mousetrap.

In Chapter 1, the groundwork for the book is laid by providing an understanding of value within a services context, and relating this to the ephemeral concept of understanding and meeting customer needs. Chapters 2‐6 provide a comprehensive discussion of how to identify service opportunities. Chapter 2 builds on the prior chapter by showing how companies can identify new opportunities through developing an understanding and uncovering the jobs that customers need to accomplish. This chapter also makes an important distinction between the functional (e.g., saving time) and emotional jobs (e.g., the need to feel less anxious) that customers may want to get done.

Chapter 3 introduces the concept of a universal job map, a process for discovering the jobs that customers need to get done. Like Chapter 3, Chapter 4 also provides a process for outlining a job map but for the specific context of a service, though not for a specific service. Acknowledging the tangibility‐intangibility continuum within the services domain, Chapter 5 supplements prior chapters by showing how manufacturers of otherwise tangible products can supplement their product offerings through identifying new jobs that customers need to be accomplished.

Chapter 6 expands the prior chapters by showing how opportunities can be identified through service delivery innovation. Chapter 7 shows how companies can differentiate through service delivery. Drawing on the conventional “four Ps” and “seven Ps” concepts in marketing, this chapter provides an expanded discussion of the dimensions upon which services can be designed and distinguished, identifying 20 key dimensions (e.g., degree of product offering standardization, degree of bundling, etc.). Chapter 8 forms a logical next step for the prior discussion and addresses the issue of how to develop a service strategy and define a service concept. The final chapter provides some concluding remarks and couches the book in the context of a service‐dominant logic.

Service Innovation is easy to read and is suitable for most audiences versed in the basics of marketing and management. It is written in a freeflowing conversational style that makes the 304 pages easy to read and digest. As the book's title suggests, those with an interest in innovation and those with an interest in the marketing and management of services will find this work of most interest. The book examines the critical interface between services and innovation. Because of this specificity it would not be suitable as a core textbook for innovation courses because of its focus on services, and is unlikely to be a core textbook for services courses because of the focus on innovation within services. However, it would make excellent supplementary reading in contemporary courses on services or innovation. Given its contemporary nature and the importance of understanding the interface between services and innovation, it would also make an excellent book for managers and practitioners interested in gaining a fresh perspective on service innovation.

This book makes a key contribution to the business literature by showing how the innovation process can be managed for services, as opposed to technologies, where there exists a plethora of books and other sources. If one was to critique this book, questions about the generalizability of the cases might be raised. To what extent do these principles apply to a variety of different companies and contexts? However, the purpose of this book was not to provide scientific evidence of the effectiveness of the process but to present a new way in which managers can approach the pitfalls of service innovation. Overall the book presents a novel and important contribution to the services and innovation literatures. I would recommend the book to practitioners, academics and motivated students who are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of services and innovation. It is also particularly useful to practitioners as it presents an easy to understand process through which service providers can approach innovation decisions.

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