Building brand-preference by strengthening a life science company’s customer service and technical support offerings can help companies on both ends of the technology adoption life cycle. At the beginning of the life cycle, companies known for unique and compelling service and support will enjoy faster technology adoption into majority markets. When entering the second half of a technology’s life cycle, companies can also extend the life of their products in majority markets and fight commodity status. In this issue, the importance of service and support both as a brand differentiator and navigator through the technology adoption life cycle will be discussed.
In this era of tough competition, businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to differentiate themselves from their competitors. How can companies rise to the occasion in these circumstances? Why not focus on becoming an industry leader in customer service and technical support?
Time-and-again, differentiation through service and support has proven to not only strengthen a company’s brand but to also aid in the navigation of the technology adoption life cycle, thus fighting against the commodity status of their products. This, however, requires more than simply offering an industry-standard service and support program, companies must also invest resources in creating programs that offer unique and compelling offerings.
In this paper, the two main opportunities in leveraging customer service and technical support as a brand differentiator will be considered, along with selected results from a survey of 27 life science service executives, which was recently deployed with the assistance of the Analytical Life Science Systems Association (ALSSA).
The First Opportunity: Fighting Commodity Status
Fighting commodity status is becoming a more common theme for life science products, from simple reagents to sophisticated, million-dollar instruments. No matter how much intellectual property protection is applied to new innovations, competitors find a way to offer similar features, changing points of differentiation into points of parity within months. As a result, customers become complacent, stop believing the marketing claims of superiority from all the competitors, and demand the latest features at a lower price.
This is bad news for life science companies. Spending valuable time and resources in developing new, innovative products just to surrender these innovations to commodity status is not only disheartening, but also dangerous for the company’s bottom line. The situation is well summarized by the following statement, which appears in Marketer’s Toolkit: “Once people view a product or service as a commodity, the most important thing to them is the price, and that can put sellers in a race to the bottom. To get orders, producers must meet expected standards of quality and have the lowest price.”i
To fight commoditization, most life science companies spend the bulk of their resources differentiating through innovative product features. However, there is also an immense opportunity to differentiate through innovation in customer service and technical support. Unique offerings in this area can be a main brand pillars for a company, providing a great means for differentiation in the marketplace.
The Second Opportunity: Navigating Through the Technology Adoption Life Cycle
A unique service and support offering can also be used to help carve out a solid positioning in the competitive landscape, enabling the company to robustly manage the technology adoption life cycle of its products.ii
If a life science company can successfully develop a brand image of excellence in service and support with unique and compelling offerings, any new technology the company introduces will most likely be faced with fewer barriers as it navigates through the cycle. Having such brand image allows companies to nimbly “cross the chasm” with new, innovative product offerings, since mainstream customers are more likely to give a company with known service and support offerings the benefit of doubt.
Also as products mature and attempt to enter into the second half of the technology adoption life cycle, they are faced with the late majority customers who tend to be technology averse. A brand, however, that stands for solid customer service and technical support may have an easier time capturing the trust of these skittish customers, fastening confidence in the company’s technology.
Doesn’t Every Company Offer Service and Support?
Every company can rightfully say that they offer service and support. However, the point is not only to have a good service and support program, but to also have unique and compelling service and support offerings. Companies need to invest creative thinking to develop innovative offerings that are different from anyone else in the marketplace. Most of the time, however, the innovative brain power is directed towards product development, failing to give service and support the necessary mindshare from the company’s top brass.