Do you provide a Service or a Product?
This is always an interesting question when I bring it up at workshops or with my coaching clients. As a recruiter are you absolutely clear on what it is you sell as clarity is essential.
Clarity is necessary so you can explain to your client what it is, you do and what it is, they pay you for.
You would think, that recruiters are clear on this question, but the various discussions that spring up when I ask this question clearly indicates that it is not only unclear but can be quite controversial.
What is the difference and why does it matter?
The difference is perhaps best illustrated by when you purchase an airplane ticket; you could say your destination is the product, but how you get there is the service. So you can get to London with many airlines. Who you choose will depend on various factors depending on your priorities: price, route, flying time, food, entertainment, service standard of crew, safety record, reputation, previous experience etc. As there are so many variables, it can be concluded that airlines clearly sell a service. And inside each airline, you even have different service levels i.e. economy, business and first class.
When Air Asia launched, they clearly wanted to target the lower end of the market; so you can fly to London with them and do it cheaply but you do not get the service extras.
In recruitment you could say that the person you provide is the “product” but as you do not have sole rights to this person and you do not manufacture the person, you could counter argue that what you do is actually offer a recruitment service where you do all the preliminary work to shortlist to enable the client to recruit in a painless fashion.
Why does it matter whether it's a service or a product you provide?
Well as we all know, it's easy to do business when things run smoothly but when problems occur, how you handle them becomes the true test of your organisation. So when your placement falls off and you have a conflict with the client over the guarantee period, it would have been wise to have clarified what the guarantee is for.
If your client's understanding is that you provide a product, then just as David Jones would replace a faulty toaster, they will argue that you have not done your job until you find a replacement that stays and does a brilliant job. As you do not have ready-made candidates sitting on a warehouse shelf, it can be difficult for you to merely “replace” the “faulty” placement. If you provide a product the entire onus is on you for the toaster to work.
On the other hand if you provide a service whereby you advertise, interview and shortlist to enable the client to better recruit the right person, the client must take responsibility for their selection, their induction, their supervision, their management & leadership of said employee. What you did was provide them with the best selection in the market place that you could provide at that given time.
Your responsibility in providing the service is in ensuring that the person can do, will do and will fit the job as it was described to you.
Your guarantee should not cover if the client changes the job e.g. it becomes part time or the duties change and the placement opts to leave, you cannot be expected to replace the person. It would be akin to me asking Singapore Airlines to fly me to Paris for Free as I now do not wish to be in London anymore.
There's no right or wrong answer to the service vs. product question but you do have to know the right answer for you. When you have clarity, it is easy for you to explain to clients your viewpoint before you deal with them and avoid any potential fallout from a fall off.
So what is it you provide?