This is a topic I will be covering as a chapter in my As a Service trend report. It’s not entirely dissimilar to one of the other chapter topics I will be covering and have written about here: As a Service trend research – products to services.
Yet customer solutions are the outward manifestation of all the other topics I will be covering as chapters and that belong in the As a Service iceberg. Or it’s the culmination of them. Which is why customer solutions is shown as the visible part of the iceberg.
Customer solutions is about solving problems or meetings needs. No longer is something purchased just for its intrinsic value but what it will help a person or organisation achieve and how.
If you believe, as long time management thinker Peter Drucker did, that the purpose of a business is to create a customer, then the solutions created for that customer is how you achieve the purpose.
Several components or theories, in some cases sub-trends, support this area. Some are not new by any means, they have all been around for a long time. See them as constituent parts of customer solutions.
This view in itself is a representative of the customer solutions view: a system is a cohesive conglomeration of interrelated and interdependent parts which can be natural or human-made (from Wikipedia).
In the case of customer solutions, it represents how products are now increasingly being viewed as tangible goods PLUS services. And there are many other aspects to be considered too, that are part of the As a Service iceberg and world view.
So in systems theory, the entire As a Service iceberg is the system and I have just broken it down into the visible outward manifestation (the tip of the iceberg) and the hidden and submerged part broken down into several parts. A big reason that customer solutions is positioned as it is can be covered by business outcomes.
Business Outcome Management is a Customer Success Core Competency. Customer Success itself has become a core function of SaaS businesses and is focused on delivering outcomes the customer wants or needs or on solving their problems. These outcomes are delivered through a combination of products and services.
Key are the outcomes. How to identify, reach, measure them, etc. Sometimes customers are not aware of them and Customer Success teams help them define and achieve them.
Jobs to be done
A framework for understanding customer needs, if ever there was an approach intended to help find solutions to customer problems or needs, this is it.
Strategyn and its founder Tony Ulwick have led development and implementation of a theory that renowned innovation thinker Clayton Christensen first expounded and define it thus:
People buy products to get a “job” done. Why does this matter? Jobs-to-be-Done Theory proposes that in order to understand customer needs in a way that makes innovation predictable, companies should stop focusing on the product or the customer and instead focus on the underlying process or “job” the customer is trying to get done.
The now famous example from JTBD theory is, “If someone buys a hammer at the hardware store, they are not buying it to hammer nails into their wall, they are buying it to hang memories and make their home feel like a home.”
A more topical example from the current As a Service trend is that people will no longer buy cars but journeys or mobility. Getting from A to B quicker than it might normally take, without having to worry about parking in a busy urban area for example. Nor having to sink funds into an asset that depreciates in value the moment it hits the road which leads to the end of ownership and the rise of usership.
More here on the auto industry and Mobility as a Service: Ways auto industry can transform with As a Service and employee experience.
Solution selling is certainly not new and became popular in the 1980’s. Its been around so long it has encountered problems: What’s wrong with solutions selling—and how to put it right.
But at its essence it has the right approach and it still holds true regardless of how you implement it (often in a sales setting). The formula for a sales person is pretty simple: the salesperson diagnoses her prospect’s needs, then recommends the right products and/or services to fill those needs – from Solution Selling: The Ultimate Guide.
You can see how this is steeped in similar thinking to JTBD theory and it also focuses away from the product: 5 steps to selling the solution, not the product.
Which brings it all neatly back to my customer solutions point.