Does a promising future await Service Design and Customer Experience?

Are Service Design and Customer Experience in the same boat?

This week I was talking to a fellow professional who is passionate about service design.  What showed up in our conversation was his recognition and disappointment between the talk and the reality of service design. Yes, there is a small community of theorists, ‘gurus’, and practitioners in service design. And in the bigger world of business the landscape is not friendly to service design. First, most business folks do not understand what service design is.  Actually, it is worse than this. Most business folks do not accurately what makes up a ‘service’.  As such, the world of business is mostly a barren place when it comes to opportunities for service design. And yes, there are a small number of small organisations doing great work on service design.  Why are these organisations small?  Could it be due to the lack of listening for, receptivity towards, service design?

In the course of our conversation I shared my experience. And it occurred to me that the same applies to the field of Customer Experience.  First, it is not well understood.  Second, where business folks do talk about customer experience they are pointing at that which occurs in the Customer Services function.  Third, the majority of talk on customer experience takes place via a relatively small community of people who are passionate about customer-centric business and the critical role of customer experience.  Where, perhaps, there is a difference it is that the IT vendors are looking to make hay in the customer experience space.  They are not doing the same in the service design space.

What does the Michael Lowenstein say?

Sitting in this place I came across this recent post by Michael Lowenstein. In this piece Michael is reflecting upon the findings of the recent Oracle study.  I want to draw your attention to the following paragraphs:

… over 90% of executives said that improving customer experience is a top priority over the next two years …. and a similar percent said that their companies want to be customer experience leaders. However, just over one third were only now beginning with formal customer experience initiatives, and only one-fifth considered their customer experience program advanced.

In the Oracle study, fewer than half of all executives surveyed thought that customers would defect due to negative experiences, nor did they think that customers would pay for great experiences. That finding is yet another huge divide between ‘conventional wisdom’ of executives and the realities of customer behavior.

Reasons identified for not moving forward on these initiatives include inflexible technology, siloed organizational structures and systems, low investment, and inability to measure initiative results. This slow adoption, or non-adoption, seems to be not so much a reflection of stagnant international economy as it is of significant, historic corporate conservatism and risk aversion.

Is there hope for Service Design and Customer Experience?

It occurs to me that Service Design fits under the umbrella of Customer Experience. And as such it is not a surprise that they are facing similar issues. By now you should also know that I am passionate about the need for and value of taking a customer-centric orientation in doing business. And customer experience has a huge role to play in a customer-centric orientation.  So how am I left being?  Yes, a part of me does from time to time become downhearted with what is so in the business world.  And there is another part of me that gets me present to the wise words of Werner Erhard:

Life never needs to turn out predictably. Human beings have the capacity to intervene in the orderly unfolding of circumstances, to produce an outcome which is basically unpredictable given those circumstances. Most of us don’t know that…..

Clearly,  Vernon Hill, the Chairman of Metro Bank in London, and the retail-oriented entrepreneurial executive who made Commerce Bank a regional marketing force in U.S. banking for several decades get this.  Why do I say that?  This is what Michael Lowenstein writes in his post:

In his recent book, “Fans! Not Customers” (Profile Books, London, 2012), Hill stated: “We want our customers to be passionate about doing business with Metro Bank, to become Metro fans. Our philosophy is more than just a corporate mission statement: it’s a way of life. Our corporate spirit – something we’ve made a unique part of our social fabric – enables us to succeed. We are fanatically focused on delivering a unique customer experience. Over-investment in facilities, training and people, a focused geographic management, and countless mystery shops a year ensure that we always exceed our customer’s expectations”.

As Hill observed, “You don’t have to be 100 percent better than the competition in order to beat them. You have to be 15 percent better, and you have to get better all the time. It’s all about standing out from the competition…..”

Posted on February 14, 2013, in Customer Experience, Leadership / Change / Transformation, Service Design and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Maz,

    I like your quote

    You don’t have to be 100 percent better than the competition in order to beat them. You have to be 15 percent better

    If that is true, and I suspect it has a lot of truth in it then being a customer experience leader isn’t really that big a job.

    Which makes it all the more remarkable (maybe depressing) that so few companies try.

    James

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  2. Hi Maz,
    Mr Hill makes an excellent point. However, he did create Metro Bank from a blank sheet of paper.

    But, maybe the trap that many businesses that want to become customer centric or to deliver a great customer experience fall into is that they are looking to transform themselves 100% from where they are when, in actuality, maybe a set of incremental changes would be more effective. And, any change for the better would be noticed and appreciated by their customers.

    What do you think?

    Adrian

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    • Hello Adrian
      You pose an interesting question. What occurs to me is that you/i need to differentiate between the context and the content. Why? Because they are radically different. Context is more powerful than content. Let’s listen to Mr Hill:

      “We want our customers to be passionate about doing business with Metro Bank, to become Metro fans. Our philosophy is more than just a corporate mission statement: it’s a way of life. Our corporate spirit – something we’ve made a unique part of our social fabric – enables us to succeed. We are fanatically focused on delivering a unique customer experience. Over-investment in facilities, training and people, a focused geographic management, and countless mystery shops a year ensure that we always exceed our customer’s expectations”.

      In that paragraph Mr Hill has spelt out the context that makes Metro Bank different and will enable it to beat the other banks. Why am I pointing this out? Because, almost all of the folks are messing with the content. And your question is one that is addressed to the content. No, the challenge is putting in place the right context. The kind of context where customer-centricity is a ‘way of life’ a ‘corporate sprit’ that gives life to all that occurs in the organisation including the content.

      As for the content, yes it makes perfect sense to focus on being say 15% better – as a start. The question is, which areas should you focus upon? This is where the obsession with the customer experience and listening to customers is a red herring. Here you need to get back to the value proposition – the deal that you are striking with the customer. I will deal with this whole issue in a forthcoming post so watch out for it.

      Remember, that which shows up (the content) is always determined by / limited by / shaped by the context. Why do most organisational change initiatives fail? Because they play around with content, they do not influence/shift/alter/transform the context. My term for this is simple STUPID.

      Maz

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