How businesses can give their customers positive experience
KNOWLEDGE WHARTON The author of ‘Woo, Wow, and Win’ explains what it takes to please clients and why companies can’t afford to get it wrong with service design
In the book, Woo, Wow, and Win: Service Design, Strategy and the Art of Customer Delight, Patricia O’connell shows businesses how they can give customers positive “Ahhh” moments, instead of negative “Ow” experiences — all of which lead to “Aha” realisations by management. And pleasing the customer doesn’t mean always giving in to what they want. O’connell talked to Knowledge@wharton about these and other management insights in the book.
Here are the excerpts:
RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR BOOK, YOU START WITH THIS ASTONISHING FACT: MOST COMPANIES ARE NOT SET UP TO DESIGN SERVICES WELL. AND I WAS WONDERING WHY NOT?
I think it’s partly that in many respects the discipline is relatively new. In management literature, managing services has been done by analogy with managing manufacturing for a long time. That’s part of it. But I think so much of what companies do is about organising internal operations. But when it comes to services, the act of production is with the customer. It’s not in the factory and then we hand it to the customer. You’re right there with me when it happens.
YOU HEAR A LOT ABOUT THINGS LIKE DESIGN THINKING THESE DAYS, OR INDUSTRIAL DESIGN, MANUFACTURING DESIGN, OR DESIGNING USER EXPERIENCES. HOW DO YOU SEPARATE SERVICE DESIGN FROM SOME OF THESE OTHER BUZZWORDS THAT YOU HEAR ABOUT DESIGN? IS THAT HELPING OR HURTING THE SITUATION?
I don’t know if you separate them. You might integrate them. But I think that’s one of the things that’s interesting. We were talking to Tim Brown of IDEO (innovation and design firm). He said that if you think about it, the ATM, which is 50 years old this year, was one of the first cases where people had to design in a thoughtful way how the customer interacted with the user interface. Before that, the user interface of the bank was the smiling teller behind the cage, and that person did all the touching and computer generating, all the work with the bank systems. So design thinking is a way of approaching problems.
Industrial design is a way, of course, of making beautiful and functional designs. And service design takes design thinking and some of the sort of aesthetic industrial design and says, “How do we use that to apply to this train journey, this ATM experience? What are we trying to convey with the look and feel of what’s happening in our interaction in the store, in the office or whatever it might be?”
Something we include in service design is also service delivery, because design without the ability to execute on it is meaningless. That’s part of that handshake.
IN THE COURSE OF RESEARCHING AND WRITING THE BOOK, WHICH ARE SOME OF THE COMPANIES THAT YOU ENCOUNTERED THAT ARE REALLY GOOD AT THIS? COULD YOU OFFER SOME EXAMPLES? AND WHAT CAN OTHERS LEARN FROM THE WAY THEY WENT ABOUT THIS EXERCISE?
One of the classic examples we use to explain service design really quickly is Starbucks versus Dunkin’ Donuts — who’s a Starbucks person, who’s a Dunkin’ Donuts person? People usually have a very strong preference. Ostensibly they’re both selling the same thing. They’re selling coffee. But that’s not [all] they’re selling.
They’re selling two very different experiences. Dunkin’ is a grab and go. There’s a reason the slogan is ‘America runs on Dunkin.’ The logo is very hot. Hot pink, hot green. Starbucks is much more about being relaxed and leisurely. It’s not for the person who wants to get up and go. And there were new companies like [personal stylist] Stitch Fix, which have evolved.
At the time that we were doing the book, it only did women’s clothing. It now includes men. Edmunds, the car buying service, has evolved so much. They’re a great example of a company that has just kept on evolving. They started as almost a [Kelley] blue book [listing of used car values.]
AND WHAT IS AN “AHA” MOMENT?
An “aha” moment is when I get it. I, as the seller, say, “Aha, I know how this works. I see the pain point. I see the ‘ah’ moment. I know how to fix the pain point. I know how to create the ‘aha’ moment. I understand what we’re trying to do here and how to design it.” This is getting complicated in a world of omni-channel.
This is the fourth principle: You’ve got to be able to deliver to your clients or customers at every point on the journey, and on every channel. So whether I’m on the web, on the phone, in their store, it should feel like I’m in your hands. This — what people are now sometimes trying to call a post-channel world — is critical, and we see all kinds of companies screwing up. In some cases, it’s because they’re still dealing with old computer stacks. Sometimes it’s simply a technical issue. Sometimes it’s an issue of silos and failure to make handoffs.
Another principle is you’re never done. That’s really important, because it’s not a static thing. People’s expectations will change, products will change, markets will change, your strategy will change, and you’ve got to adapt to those things. There’s a fine line between you’re never done, and, as we were saying, distorting yourself outside your sweet spot so that you’re no longer recognisable as to who you are. That’s why it really does come down to service design needs to be part of the strategic fabric of the company.
All these decisions about service are too often lumped in with the customer service department, where people think of it only as a function of marketing. And marketing is certainly a department that has responsibility for helping to create the notion of what that brand promise is. But strategy is about deciding what that brand promise is going to be.
HOW CAN DOING SERVICE DESIGN WELL HELP YOU DEVELOP A REALLY STRONG COMPETITIVE STRATEGY THAT CAN TAKE YOU FORWARD?
We created in the book a set of nine archetypes. They’re basically expressions of value propositions. One of the archetypes is the Trendsetter. You know, we are the Apple of whatever industry it is. Another is the Bargain. We’re the Wal-mart of whatever industry it is. Another is The Classic. We’re the best. You know, we’re the Mercedes of whatever it is. There are nine of them, and you can find almost all of them in every industry.
But if you think about these archetypes as expressions of a value proposition, that means they are actually a strategy. Our strategy is to be the safe choice. Our strategy is to be the best, whatever it is. … Value proposition and strategy are pretty closely related. These help you envision how we’re going to take that value proposition and manifest it in the experience customers have, and also in the tangible evidence of that experience, the look and feel, the things that customers can look at and say, “Yes, that’s what this is going to be.”
When you’re there, that’s really a strategic conversation, and having one of those archetypes in mind, helps. I mean, strategy is partly the art of saying no, right? What you’re not doing and the customers you are not serving. And having those archetypes in mind helps you think, no, this isn’t us. But this is us.
NOW, IF COMPANIES WANT TO BECOME BETTER AT SERVICE DESIGN, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THEM?
They need to be willing to be honest with themselves. It is a gut check, and it’s not always pretty. And I think they need to make sure that it is going into the decision-level making of the organisation. We’ve created a little equation in Woo,
Wow, Win: Customer delight is the product of the customer’s experience and technical excellence.
One of the classic examples we use to explain service design really quickly is Starbucks versus Dunkin’ Donuts ...An “aha” moment is when I get it. I, as the seller, say, “Aha, I know how this works. I see the pain point. I see the ‘ah’ moment. I know how to ix the pain point
CUSTOMER SERVICE Patricia O’connell, the author of ‘Woo, Wow, and Win’.