Institute of Product Leadership
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Can Service be a Product?

What one customer sees something as a service, another might see it as a product? For example, say a cell phone company provides a phone, which could be seen by the customer as a product which allows them to make calls and send/receive text messages and accessing other apps and services. Could it be considered as service?

Or take the example of music... it is regarded as a service now unlike what it was long before when people used to think of music as something to own and collect as much as experience. When someone bought an album containing the music of Louis Armstrong or Benny Goodman or Les Paul, they owned it. They could keep it or they could sell it. It was theirs. But now with so many apps, the scenario has changed.

product vs service
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Interestingly, CDs, vinyl, downloads, apps or subscription services are the products which generate the income that allow some artists to give up the day job and focus on making great music. It is the product wrapped around the music that creates that income that helps support creativity. Or take an example of ATM machine, Although the designer, manufacturer, distributor, and seller may think it is a product, to the buyer, it offers a valuable service. The easiest example is the automatic teller machine (ATM), or as many people think of it, a cash dispenser. To the company that manufactures it as well as to the bank that purchases it, the ATM is a product. But to the customer, the ATM provides a service.

In similar fashion, although a camera is thought of as a product, its real value is the service it offers to its owner: Cameras provide memories. Similarly, music players provide a service: the enjoyment of listening. Cell phones offer communication, interaction, and other pleasures.
In reality a product is all about the experience. It is about discovery, purchase, anticipation, opening the package, the very first usage. It is also about continued usage, learning, the need for assistance, updating, maintenance, supplies, and eventual renewal in the form of disposal or exchange.
However,what customer sees it as a Product or Service is subjective, and probably doesn’t really matter so much. From a customer’s perspective, it’s what the Product or Service does for them, the value it provides, which is really important.