Control, demand, need, or customer purpose?

The distinction between demand, need, and supply is a critical one for business and public services.

Are you focused on control? Demand? Need? Customer purpose?

I keep coming back to this because it’s a powerful way to direct focus.

My definition is that a service co-creates value with and for the customer, and that our mission is to reduce the effort, time, cost, steps, process from the customer need arising, to the positive outcome.

Most of our time in public services is spent dealing with demand. It’s transactional. People have problems, they need our help. Classic Poor Sick Miserable People and heroic provision of service.

There are two problems.

First, it’s boring. Transactional. Sure, it’s great to build a process, a service, a system to help people with their needs — but the needs just keep coming. It gets a bit same-y. And nobody really seems to be happy despite their obvious problems!

As resources seem to constantly reduce, and demand increases, we are forced to focus back on control. Queues, triage, checking, chasing, assessments, eligibility requirements, waiting.

That’s disappointing. Because, frankly, we got into this to *help* people, not to manage queues…

If a service co-creates value, the more you can put the capacity and capability to meet demand at the point of contact. It’s cheating! It’s great.

And you can get *upstream* of the demand, if you really work at it.

That means getting at the need in someone’s life — the reason they had to make a demand of public services in the first place.

When we identify someone’s *needs*, then we’re really helping! And we might be able to get in before the demand.

But there’s a shadow side to this. Helping is great, in fact it’s addictive. It’s easy to need to be needed.

Better still — can you get *upstream* of the need.

People only feel a need when their own purposes in life are thwarted — when a need arises.

If we can create the conditions for people to achieve what they are trying to achieve, day-to-day — then we are in a very different relationship. They’re not Poor Sick Miserable People any more. We might miss them needing us, but we are actually helping them to do what they need before they feel a *need*.

In the private sector, this is creating clear blue water with the competition — finding better ways to add value.

Either way, it’s not easy. We still need to deal with demand! We still need to navigate helping without needing victims to help. It’s honest and good work to respond well to demand and winkle out the ‘hidden demand’ too.

But ultimately, we’re trying to create the conditions for need not to occur.

Where are you in terms of control — demand — need — purpose?

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