Success Science, the secret ingredient for innovating services
“Even dentists use it”
“Washes 20% whiter”
“Better tasting formula”
Product claims are everywhere. They intend to help customers to make choices, to offer an evaluation criterion on which they can decide which product to buy.
As we have seen in a previous article, innovating services is quite different from a product. For one thing, you can’t physically compare different services alternatives. This means that claims are often the only thing customers can depend on to make their choice. And although referrals based on a great customer experience are very important, it is becoming essential to provide data-driven evidence of the impact of a service.
This is where success science comes in; an evidence-based, quantitative understanding of how your customer define success, how your products and services can help them achieve that success, and how you can help elevate that definition to a higher level. Success science, a term coined by the Technology Services Industry Association , might be the secret ingredient that determines the success of a service.
From our experience of helping both teams at Philips and external customers in this journey, we learned that defining claim that resonates with your customers is only a small part of the journey. The real value lies in deeper understanding of how you can make sure that you help your customers achieve success.
These are the four questions you need to ask.
1. How does the customer define success?
Success science starts with getting a better quantitative understanding of your customers’ success metrics. If your customers are consumers, an example of how they might measure success, is a reduction on their energy bill. If you provide services to a company, the efficiency of their operations might be an important metric. And then, what is the benchmark for that metric: how are comparable customers performing on a specific Key Performance Indicator? Do they all measure the same way? How will your service actually impact one or more of the ways they measure success, to make sure they achieve or surpass that benchmark? And what is the value of that impact for the customer? With that understanding, you can actually define suitable claims that will resonate with your customer.
2. How do we collect evidence of success?
The next thing to do is to generate evidence that your service actually makes that impact. That evidence can be based on simulations, or on examples where you have done this before:
“A large non-profit healthcare system serving more than 500,000 residents in the southeast was looking to identify and implement radiology workflow performance improvements. Philips clinical consultants were engaged as partners to define and implement improvements … Throughput improvement was realized across the department (CT, Ultrasound, X-ray) with time savings of as much as 47% at the end of the consulting engagement.”
The strongest claims are claims where you have (scientifically) verifiable evidence that a large group of customers comparable to your target customer, have achieved a measurable improvement directly caused by your product or service. In Philips, the ultimate evidence is considered to be supported by large, randomized trials, leading to medical claims such as
“an iFR-guided strategy reduces costs and improves patient comfort compared to an FFR-guided strategy.“
3. How can we design our service to deliver customer’s success?
A claim that a product or service delivers an improvement is, in the end, not more than a promise. You should also carefully design your service so that the customer is not only enabled to achieve incidental improvements, but that they are ensured that they achieve sustainable success. Designing-in the right level of customer training is important, and more and more we see that a new role of customer success managers is defined as part of a service. These are dedicated staff who engage with the customer over the lifetime of the customer relationship and have as an objective the realization of customer success and a positive customer experience. And in order to scale your service, enabling customer self-help is even more important.
Furthermore, it is essential that you design-in a way to actually measure customer success in your product or service, structurally collecting data on Key Performance Indicators of improvement for the customer. With this data, you can monitor if your service is realizing continuous improvements for the customer; your customer can evaluate the value your service is bringing, and you can compile the data in order to define or refine a benchmark.
4. How can success science enable new services or new business models?
If you take success science, that data itself then becomes valuable for both you and your customer. It can be used to create benchmarks or become the basis to identify and share best practices. You could even bring your customers together as a community.
Philips has done this in several instances, for example bringing together cardiovascular executives to exchange best practices , and even partner with professional organizations to define new industry-wide benchmark standards . Ultimately, you could translate your success claims in your business model, guaranteeing success to your customers. , 
Through outcome-based business models and/or risk sharing agreements, you are selling outcomes rather than services. By doing that, you have fully aligned the customers’ success KPIs to your own business’ success KPIs. And that is what a real customer relationship should be about: when you succeed, we succeed.
What is your experience with success science? We appreciate your comments on this article.
Senior Innovation Consultant
Practice lead Services & Solutions Innovation