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    Tuesday, April 15, 2008

    There Is No Easy Way Out

    Delivering real service doesn't com natural to the Dutch. Companies and governments in the Netherlands are mainly focused on trade. That is what the Dutch are good at. And service-products are treaded the same as commodities.

    And I guess, dropping a service-product from high above on an unsuspected target group creates a save distance from that most difficult of creatures, the consumer, the civilian, the persons. Having a target group seems to solve a lot of problems and Dutch marketeers love to talk at length about them.

    I just don't like the term "target group". It's just an easy way out and has nothing to do with reality. Of course traditional marketing and advertising can't be successful without focusing on a specific target group. Focusing on individuals is way to expensive and far to complicated. But this approach is a one-way street and therefor a cul-de-sac for service organizations. Thinking in target groups fuels the generalization of personal wants and needs and reduces it to meaningless tag-lines.

    People need to be understood. And people are so much more than age, gender, profession or hobby. There is no easy way out. People are complex and full of contradictions. But only while focusing on the reality and complexity of everyday life service organizations are able to ad true value to their services. This approach leads to meaningful and relevant solutions and true service innovation.

    But like I said, providing real service doesn't com natural to the Dutch. Maybe the Dutch are afraid it will disturb the process of doing business, making money. Actually having a real two way conversation with costumers never even occurred to most managers and marketeers. Simply because it is time-consuming and expensive. And time and money are a rare luxury. They are usually spend on buildings, hardware, paying employees, discussing internal company issues, producing spreadsheets and having lots and lots of meetings.

    It is going to take a whole new breed (or generation) of managers, political decision-makers and maybe even companies to get the Dutch competitive on a international level in the service industries of the future.

    2 comments:

    Marc Fonteijn said...

    I have to agree with you if you look at the history. I bet there's still something (a lot?) left in the DNA of the Dutch folks.

    Although I think it's changing. And this is mainly because some people have seen the business opportunity in supbr service. If you look at the current market the newcomers are companies that explicitly distinguish them selfs by service. Think of the new Ditzo.nl insurance company.

    About the focus-groups/panels, what tends to happen is that managers want measurable results. A controlled environment makes it easier to create a setting in where you can take a magnifying glass and look at details. This is easy for managers because it can be explained in an excel-sheet. The value of this kind of research is tangible.

    It gets a lot harder when you have to explain that going into a street with a photocamera and interviewing 30 random people can have more value than tests in a controlled environment. The value in this case is different. It's comparing the value "insights" against "figures", two different things. Figures are tangible, usually insights aren't.

    Usually panels and focus-group are there mostly to verify research. They don't give you a better understanding and new insights.

    I guess the point that I'm trying to make is that companies should do panels and focus-group research, but if they are looking for a better understanding of and insights in their customers they'll have to get their feet dirty.

    Arne van Oosterom said...

    You are right things are changing. But until now it is mainly cosmetics. Companies are talking the talk, but the are not doing the work. But it's funny to hear all the service design talk slowly emerging. Maybe the are testing the waters and later they will dive right in.