"product" as non-manufactured

Bruce Dykes bkd at GRAPHNET.COM
Wed Feb 9 10:00:06 UTC 2000

-----Original Message-----
From: James E. Clapp <jeclapp at WANS.NET>
Date: Tuesday, February 08, 2000 1:43 PM
Subject: Re: "product" as non-manufactured

>The simple fact is that in the services sector of the business
>community, beginning I believe with financial services (banking,
>insurance, brokerage, etc.), it became at some point the "in" thing to
>refer to services as "products" by analogy with the terminology used in
>manufacturing and agricultural sectors.  One might speculate that this
>started in business schools, where it would have the advantage of making
>it possible to make general statements like "The price of a product is
>subject to the law or supply and demand" and have it apply equally to
>all businesses--thereby making it unnecessary to say "product or
>service" and saving two words.
>Unfortunately, none of us has/have been able to help Roly with the
>question he actually asked, which is when this new usage arose.  It came
>as a jolt to me when I heard it in the 1980's, so I'd take a wild stab
>and say it arose in the 1970's.  But then, truth to tell, until I
>started practicing law I never had much occasion to deal with people who
>speak business-ese, and *all* that "rightsize the company so as to grow
>the profits by leveraging the human resources" stuff was novel to me;
>for all I know it all had been around for decades.  The place I'd look
>for cites, though, is business administration textbooks and casebooks
>and journals.

I'm following this thread closely, as I happen to have a hypothesis that
relates directly to Roly's question:

As long as banks were referring to their offerings as 'services', they would
at least consider themselves in the customer service business and value
customer relations, superficially at the very least. But once banks started
referring to their offerings as 'products', ie, something you no longer have
anything to do with once you have the customer's money, then even any
pretense to customer service was gone.

It sounds good, certainly, but will it hold up under scrutiny? I dunno. It's
more likely a coincidental relationship than a semantic one: at about the
time whatever management genius came up with the idea of calling 'services'
'products', there was greater focus on profit at the expense of service.


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