The Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon defines «service» as either a voluntarily provided service or a «non-productualized» core or additional service of a company. Thirdly, the article also lists the special attention experienced by the customer. We would probably call the latter Customer Experience today. The definition is in need of updating, as more and more services are «productised» in the course of digital change. Software makes services an immanent part of a product – and networking via the Internet and in the cloud creates an additional dynamic here.
Any examples? Mobility services, which are constantly increasing the functionality of a connected car, are now just as important sales arguments as driving dynamics, consumption or price. In the kitchen, a Thermomix recipes pulls itself out of the web, the refrigerator orders food supplies, sensors in the oven monitor the desired degree of browning. Jeff Bezos has built his company Amazon completely around services that range from delivery service to the largest product search engine, video and music offerings to Alexa listening to the word. In the Internet of Things, where more than ten billion parts are already networked, data becomes information and information becomes services.
This is how digital change works. It doesn’t primarily serve to produce faster and at the same time cause lower costs. The disruptive effect of digitalization is that it makes production more flexible, changes product worlds, integrates customer relationships and revolutionizes entire industries. And all this is happening because services from the Internet are being added in manufacturing, in products and in customer care, turning the business model of entire industries upside down. A classic business-to-business (B2B) relationship suddenly turns into a complex B2B2C chain in which the customer becomes a “prosumer”.
However, for most SMEs in Europe, digitisation is still reduced to the replacement of analogue controls by computerised systems. Nevertheless, a production machine does not react more flexibly to customer wishes because it is digital. Rather, flexibility is a service that results from the interaction of many components in production and planning. It is about linking digital worlds to new process and information chains.