Archive for March, 2008

One Line of Service Design

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Jeff tagged me on this interesting activity… to keep it brief, Marc Fonteijn from 31Volts is starting an experiment to gather thoughts on how people would explain service design using only one line. The point is not necessarily to define service design , but provide examples that could shed light on what service design does. Marc’s one line was this:

When you have 2 coffee shops right next to each other, that each sell the same exact same coffee at the exact same price; Service Design is what makes you walk into the one and not the other.

And Jeff’s was this:

Service designers work with companies and governments to orchestrate their encounters with people.

There are so, so many service design one liners I could think of. But to continue, here’s one of mine:

Service design is not only what makes customers want to take part in a service, but it’s what makes them want to share the great moments they’ve had from a service with their friends and family (and the world, for us bloggers).

I guess there are two major parts to my one liner. First, the “want” part. Great services are those that you are a part of, not simply out of necessity, but out of desire. You know, the services you wouldn’t mind paying a little more for, just because it’s worth it. Second, the “sharing” bit. I suppose this part was partially inspired by my thesis project work at Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital. One of my major goals for the project is to design the service in such a way that, in light of their child being sick, the parents will still want to share the great time they had at the hospital. Great services are those that customers will advocate in the end. This advocating bit is also the last phase in Shelley Evenson’s model of the cycle of experience; she calls it “reverberating”, and I think that’s a pretty good word for it. I’ve tried some services just because so many people have talked about all the good things about them… that reverberation of positive words is something service providers aim for.

My one liner of course doesn’t really fully explain what service design is, but I find myself using it a lot when describing what I do to people who don’t have a design background.

I’m curious to see the results of this experiment. The people I want to tag don’t blog, but I’ll contact them and see if I can post their service design one liners here soon ;)

Don’t forget about the roots

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

Roger Sessions on the roots of musical feeling (from The Musical Experience of Composer, Performer, Listener):

In the last chapter I discussed what I may perhaps call the roots of our musical feeling—roots lying in the very depths of our nature as animate beings. Here I should like to stress the vast sweep of the topmost branches of the tree that has grown from these roots.

My metaphor, I believe, is not a bad one. For it emphasizes a fact we ought never to forget: that a genuine culture is an organic growth, and not a self-conscious achievement. Possibly we Americans especially need to remember this. We are aware, quite aside from any self-congratulatory spirit, of having accomplished a very great deal in a very short time, and we tend sometimes to minimize all that is implied in the growth from roots to topmost branches; to seek short cuts that would make this arduous process unnecessary.

Very applicable to design, if you ask me.

Faking it

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

I went to a chamber music performance last night (first one since the summer, sadly). The first piece they played was a Beethoven trio. Throughout the piece I couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t feeling very Beethoven to me. Even though stylistically they were playing it mostly Beethoven-ly. I’m not sure what it was that made me feel like it was a bit off. Perhaps the over exaggerated body gestures in odd places, or maybe the overall sound of the trio. Anyway, I didn’t think much of it until now, as I began to refine my thesis paper (which, if you need to be reminded, is on the possibilities of service design learning from the field of classical music).

I reread a section of my paper, where I talk about one of the roles of a performer in classical music as being able to reproduce the composer’s intentions with conviction, and paralleling this to service design, where one of the frontline employee’s job is to follow the original intents of the service provider. Any deviations from the intended service actions could lead to break in core service aspects (branding, etc). Imagine Disney theme park staff greeting you with monotone, gloomy welcomes. Just this simple deviation in behaviour could take away from Disney’s image of being the “happiest place on earth”.

Of course, staff can be trained so that they embody the service provider’s core values. But as I thought back to the performance last night, it makes me wonder: if you’re not really into the composer’s music, or if you don’t really believe in the service provider that you’re working for, is it possible to be trained so that you appear to be well versed in a composer’s style or a company’s values? In other words, is it possible to fake beliefs?

I ask myself this question because I realize now that it applied to my past as a classical musician. I was always a great Baroque and Romantic era performer. I love Baroque and Romantic era music. I listened to a lot of it growing up, I studied it extensively, and as a result I almost naturally gained a touch for that type of music. On the other hand, I could not for the life of me gain the same touch with Classical era music. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I listened to Mozart of Beethoven, my piano teachers would never tell me that my renditions of Classical era music were as good as my Baroque or Romantic ones. I know this had to do with the fact that I never liked Classical era music. And perhaps as a result, this showed in my performances in that I could never truly replicate the feel of a Classical composer, even though I tried “faking” it.

So bringing this back to services: can frontline employees be trained enough to appear like they embody everything that the company has to offer, or do you really need to have employees believe in what they’re doing to make a service truly successful? And most importantly, where is the border in which customers of a service begin to tell that there are disconnects between the employees and the company’s projected values which will affect their satisfaction with the company?