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

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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

--COUR­TESY

CUS­TOMER SER­VICE Pa­tri­cia O’con­nell, the au­thor of ‘Woo, Wow, and Win’.

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