Pekka Kahri: What a service provider can learn from Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga toured in Finland late last summer. The pop star's stage arsenal consisted of some twenty truckloads of props. Normally, it would take even the most efficient logistics operation a few days to break down this amount of equipment, but Lady Gaga's road crew cleaned everything up and hit the road in just a few hours.

Lady Gaga is known as an artist, who is capable of anything. Impossible is not in her vocabulary. This also seems to apply to her crew.

In Finland, the internationalisation of services and, in particular, the export of welfare and health care services are generally considered to be a sector unto itself. Scaling services for foreign markets is difficult. Major industrial players are not interested in service providers. Health care services are so culture-specific, that a concept that works in Finland would not work elsewhere.

Nonsense, Lady Gaga would say.

Building a successful business is not easy, that much is true. But the same keys to success apply to both service providers and every other type of business. The point of an enterprise is to provide benefits to the customer, whilst making money for partners and income for itself. Consulting veteran Pöyry has exported Finnish service expertise to every corner of the globe for decades, without having any idea that internationalisation was not a Finnish strength.

Other service providers should also ignore the same traditional limitations.

"That's a great idea, but it wouldn't work here." This is a familiar argument, particularly in the social welfare and health sector. Why wouldn't it work? All too often, we have grown accustomed to think that the way things are done in any given field is so set in stone that it could not possibly be changed. This is quite often just a question of limited vision.

We here at Tekes make every effort to speed up service times. We are often comforted by the fact that, compared to many other authorities, we serve our customers quickly. But, is this enough? Shouldn't we also be able to address, for example, project changes within a day and inform our customers of the changes made immediately by text message, just as many insurance companies do?

Lady Gaga's road crew does not likely compare itself to other logistics firms or even sound system service providers. It has set goals based on the needs of its customers, not the median level of industry performance.

Goals can also be set by a savvy buyer. Many believe that business and public services don't mix. By making smart purchases and emphasising qualitative goals, municipalities and other public sources of revenue could demand better services from providers, thus increasing their expertise. Everyone wins: taxpayers, businesses and service users.

We should eliminate the traditional impediments to doing business. Let's follow Lady Gaga's example and make the impossible possible.

The author, Pekka Kahri is Director of Services and Well-being Industries at Tekes.

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