Negative services — those that are needed in emergencies, when problems arise or to ensure against unwanted outcomes — are part of most businesses and central to many. Their very nature presents unique growth challenges.
When people hear the word services, they often think about offerings that are “neutral” or “routine.” They conjure up familiar experiences that they navigate regularly — for example, dry cleaning, haircutting or lawn care. Such services are distinct from the types of services people aspire to use, such as those associated with travel and entertainment; for classification purposes, these might be labeled “positive” services. However, there is a third type of service, which is not often considered or particularly well understood. We refer to these as “negative” services because they deal with events most people hope they will never have to deal with — things such as toothaches, leaky roofs or collision repairs.1 Whereas much of the writing about services has looked at the nature of the activity (for example, whether it is tangible or intangible) or has examined the activity from the provider perspective (for example, in medicine, whether the need is acute or chronic), we take a customer viewpoint. (See “About the Research.”)