Customer service experienced in bits

by Andy Polaine on July 21, 2014

in General

Dr Drang tells two stories of failed customer service. The first one involves him trying to assist his mother getting to the gate at the airport. I use flying a lot as an example of services involving silos that barely communicate with each other and generate terrible customer experiences as a result. Dr Drang’s experience is typical:

You will not be surprised to hear that the people at the ticket desk—both our initial agent and his superior—had no idea how to issue me a gate pass. Curiously, the agent did ask for my photo ID, even though he had no idea what to do with it. Force of habit, I guess. Eventually, the supervisor hit upon the idea of sending us to the Special Services desk, where we would become someone else’s problem.

The agent at the Special Services desk knew everything about gate passes and told me right away that I wouldn’t be able to get one. “They’re being very tight with those.”

When I explained to the agent that I’d been told by the airline that I could get a gate pass, she told me with great confidence that the people manning the airline’s 800 number didn’t know anything. But she took my driver’s license, typed my information into her computer, and my gate pass printed out immediately.

“Do you know which gate you’re going to?” she asked sharply as she handed it over.

“No, I haven’t checked yet. I wasn’t sure until just now that I was going to get in.”

“Well, it’s F6A. It’s right on the pass.” There was a note of triumph in her voice, as it was clear she had bested me.

None of these poor experiential moments is tragic on its own, but the aggregate experience is an awful one—something I often refer to as an experience crevasse that customers fall into. When you are at the bottom of one of those, nobody can hear you screaming for help.

When I work with teams to bring service design methods into their workflow, one of the common responses is, “but to do this properly we really need to change or organisation’s structure.” Culture and cultural change within an organisation is key to changing the end experiences of a service. If staff feel frustrated, bored or under pressure to act in a way detrimental to the customer experience, it should be no surprise that this experience is awful. Yet this is regularly demanded of staff under the guise of efficiency. Companies need to switch their focus from the industrial mode of efficiency to a service mindset of being effective. They’re not mutually exclusive, but the emphasis and process are very different.

Without that, customers end up treating the interaction as a battle. As Dr Drang writes at the end of his post:

Now I see my interactions with customer service as a sort of strategy game: can I plan my way around the obstacles the game will put in my way? Today I came out on top. Tomorrow is another round.

Apple, Beats and wearable tech

by Andy Polaine on June 5, 2014

in General

All the speculation about Apple designing and iWatch and the noise about their acquisition of Beats got me wondering why we do not pay more attention to the tech we are already wearing and why some of it is socially acceptable and some not.

There is a kind of inverse correlation between assistive technologies and wearable tech. It is socially acceptable, cool even, to wear glasses—a medical aid that sits front and centre on your face—but hearing aids are seen to be uncool, even though they are less visible. This is quite unfair, but despite the efforts of artists and designers like David Hockney and Susan Cohn to make hearing aids a feature and not hide them, they remain socially stigmatised.

Conversely, wearing Google Glass turns you into a glasshole, whilst wearing a pair of Beats headphones makes you cool. Well, the coolness factor is debatable with Beats headphones. One Amazon reviewer describes a pair of Sennheiser Momentum headphones as “much more of a premium look and feel than the plastic ridden beats. These are something that an adult can be seen in public in without looking like a complete tool.” Nevertheless, plenty of people do find Beats cool, despite them being the worst noise polluters I ever have to sit next to on the train. Besides, it is hard to argue with $3 billion. In short, headphones and glasses are hipster, hearing aids and Google Glass are not. Bluetooth earpieces appear to have taken on the stigma of hearing aids, plus the toolness of Glass. Wearers shouting into thin air and mostly being annoying salesmen probably does not help their case.

Obviously, wearable technology has a future, but it is easy to forget that how much of the future is already here. I carry my iPhone around in my jeans or jacket pocket. Am I wearing it? Kind of. It depends on your definition of “wearing”. If I stick it in my front shirt pocket like Joaquin Phoenix in Her, is that wearing my phone or just carrying it around more publicly? What about sticking it on my arm while jogging? That probably counts as wearing it.

The irony of all the bullshit calls for Apple to produce an iWatch is that people are wearing watches less often because they have a smartphone in their pocket that they use instead of a watch. To make an iWatch would be for Apple to make a device that replaces a device the iPhone already made redundant.

The other trend for wrist-worn tech either look like a bloated Livestrong wristband or a flexible ruler from the 80s. All of these require lots of persuading people they are cool enough to wear, which usually requires lots of marketing money. Pre-iPhone it was hard to imagine a phone that had no buttons and was just a panel of glass. Although Apple did spend plenty of money on marketing, the key factor was that it was the phone everyone had been waiting for because manufacturers had made such a hash of phone design up until then. Nobody thought they were going to be ridiculed for using one in public. It was designing for an unarticulated need more than marketing that achieved that. The iPhone went with the flow of public desire for such a simple, yet powerful, device.

If you are designing a piece of wearable tech today, perhaps one that is not so miniature—the size of a matchbox, say, so that it has some decent processing power—then you have two choices. You either come up with something that is new and confronting, like Google Glass and try and persuade people that, no, honestly, they really are cool. Or you look at the big chunks of tech people are already wearing, like those half-buns perched on your ears. That’s where I would consider building some new, amazing, wearable technology. You can jam a lot in that space an people still think you are wearing a cool pair of headphones instead of looking like a tool. That is far easier to sell and eventually the technology will get smaller and fit into earbuds, which is what every iPhone comes with anyway and everyone is used to wearing. The production designers of Her got that part very right.

Tim, Jony, Mr Dre (because I’m fairly certain you are not really a doctor), you know what to do.

Service Design in Japanese

May 14, 2014

I’m happy to announce that our book, Service Design: from insight to implementation has just been translated and published in Japanese by Maruzen publishing. Thanks to the translator, Yoshinori Wakizaka. If you speak Japanese, I’d love to know what you think of it and the translation. We hope this helps those working in and with […]

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Chris Risdon on Orchestrating Touchpoints

April 19, 2014

Whilst I’m at it, here’s a great talk by Chris Risdon from the same conference talking about orchestrating touchpoints. His anecdote at the beginning is priceless. I’m particularly interested in the way he takes the journey as the hub from which everything extends from. It’s service design, but he comes at it from a UX […]

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Dave Malouf on Storytelling and Interaction Design

April 19, 2014

I talk a lot about the importance of thinking about the story of your product or service. I have always assumed this has to do with my background of studying photography, film, video and interactive media-I originally wanted to be a film director—and my work as a writer. But the need and interest in story […]

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Smart companies trust people

March 4, 2014

I just backed David Hieatt’s upcoming book, Do Purpose on the crowd-funded publishing site, Unbound. David is a smart guy and a kind of serial entrepreneur. The book explores companies that focus on their purpose. Here’s an excerpt: Most companies don’t have a purpose. This may sound odd but most people have forgotten why they […]

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Mentalism for service delivery?

February 24, 2014

I hope I have left enough time between the broadcast of Series 3 of Sherlock, but just in case you are waiting to binge view, the following contains mild spoilers. (You do know he isn’t dead though, right? Otherwise Series 3 would be called Watson). Sherlock Series 3 involves Sherlock returning from his overseas sojourn […]

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Swiss Design Network coordinator job

February 21, 2014

The Swiss Design Network (I am the HSLU Board Member) is looking for a coordinator to support the head office located at Bern University of the Arts BUA. You can read all this on the PDF description but here are the key details: Relevant skills/experience: experience in cultural, project and event management research background in […]

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Services that fix services and the inverse experience umbrella

February 17, 2014

I often use air travel as the archetypal example of a multi-channel service that unfolds over time. Modern air travel consists of lots of minor annoyances that aggregate to a massive pain in the arse. When analysed individually, each of these annoyances can be dismissed as something not so bad that customers should be willing […]

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Lists and numbers versus stories

December 16, 2013

Eugene Wei posted a piece about why our brains love lists over on his Remains of the Day blog. It explains why all those “20 ways to…” blog post headlines are such popular click bait. But it’s not the list thing that I found so interesting, rather this snippet of Wei’s experience of working at […]

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