As we explained in an earlier blog post on Service Chains, a Service Chain is a pre-planned set of offerings that have an entry offering with linkages and methods that pull-through the other offerings. Service chains formalize implied client value propositions by providing a framework to aid in the transformation from an opportunistic selling approach to a pre-planned, deliberate selling approach that delivers to clients the total value proposition offered by your company.
Linkages are pre-planned connections from one offering that pulls through the next offering. The connections are made by carefully pre-planned and executed sales activities. Of course in reality, linkages do not begin at the end of one project and end at the beginning of the next. Linkages are positioning activities that take place during the initial sales process and during projects. The positioning may not only be related to the next project in the Service Chain, but also can be made with regard to the entire Service Chain.
For example, a business development or account manager might choose to paint the entire Service Chain picture in their first meeting with a client. The purpose would not be to begin closing deals for all projects in the Service Chain. Rather, the purpose would simply be to position the entire value proposition up front and condition the client for future possibilities.
Linkages provide excellent integration points to other Service Chains. In fact, such linkages should be pre-planned in the Service Chain if it is likely that one Service Chain could link to another.
In our experience, we see three types of linkages:
Organic linkages link natural follow-on projects. They are typically dictated by the methodology used in delivery of the work. These linkages serve as checkpoints for client review and approval before proceeding to the next project. The linkage is organic because it will naturally happen assuming good results are achieved in the prior project. Examples of organic linkages are architecture leading to design and design leading to implementation.
Proof linkages position the next project by proving a benefit or other projected result in the preceding project. The fact that a hypothesis is proven to be true creates a logical linkage to the next project to act on those results. Examples of these are assessments and feasibility studies. If an assessment proves out a weakness, there is an obvious linkage to a next project to fix the weakness.
These linkages should be designed into the service chain when it is believed the client will have difficulty understanding the linkage to the next project. In such cases, there is a need to educate the client on the merits of the following project. A classic example of a facilitated linkage is the creation of a Steering Committee. The official purpose of the Committee is to oversee the current project. The linkage purpose is to provide a forum to educate the client on the rationale for the next project in the Service Chain. This approach might be useful, for example, when a client is changing their go-to-market strategy to include partnerships, and needs to be educated on the benefits in an ongoing way.
I can’t emphasize this point enough: Service Chains are opportunities to build long-term relationships with clients. They’re the key ingredient in your Customer Intimacy Engine™ that will allow your services organizations to scale and gain the critical mass they need to become dominant leaders in the industry.