Steve Case calls it “a roadmap for success in a landscape being rapidly transformed by technology and entrepreneurship.” Marshall Goldsmith calls it “an idea whose time has come.” Released this week by HarperCollins, Woo, Wow, and Win: Service Design, Strategy, and the Art of Customer Delight outlines the importance of service design—offering insights on designing your company and brand around service with clear, practical strategies.
Bestselling authors and business experts Thomas A. Stewart and Patricia O’Connell contend that most companies—whether digital or brick-and-mortar, B2B or B2C—are not designed for service or capable of providing an experience that matches a customer’s expectations with every interaction. When customers have more choices than ever before, study after study reveals that it’s the experience that makes the difference. To provide great experiences that keep customers coming back, businesses must design their services with as much care as their products.
In their view, service design is proactive—delivering on your promise to customers in accordance with your strategy, not about bowing to customer dictates. Their book teaches how to create “Ahh” moments for customers and how to avoid “Ow” moments when you lose a sale, or even worse, customer trust.
They also argue that there’s no need to surprise but it should be a goal to delight customers, who are as much a part of your business as your employees are. Together, employees and customers create a bank of trust, fueled by knowledge of each other’s skills and preferences. This is Customer Capital, and it is jointly owned—but it’s up to the company to manage it well, and profitably.
Find out more in the Q&A with the authors below.
How do you define service design?
Service design is what you do to make sure your customer—the customer you want to have—has the experience you want him or her to have, every time and at every point of contact. We’re all familiar with product design. But services need to be designed, too, to make sure your customer gets the experience he or she has the right to expect, and that you can deliver it reliably, profitably, and repeatedly. Your ads, your website, your office, all your touchpoints—as well as the actual services you offer—must be coherent and complementary. This is what makes service design the most important management idea you’ve never heard of.
Service design is a tool that can help companies differentiate themselves and ensure they understand their identity and are lining up a series of activities that express that identity in a way that delights customers and brings in profits. Even when it comes to buying and using products, service design matters. Who hasn’t been frustrated on a help line, trying to get their Wi-Fi up and running at home again? The lines between products and services are blurring more every day. No business can afford to overlook service design.
How does service design relate to design thinking?
Design thinking has many definitions, but a commonly used one is “the solving of problems in parallel rather than in sequence.” Service design—which we sometimes think of as “design doing”—applies that philosophy to the overall customer service. Services are experiences. Experiences are journeys. Journeys are designed.
When IDEO’s Tim Brown and the other pioneers of design thinking got started, they were surprised that many inquiries were coming in from hospitals, railways, and others in the service sector. They hadn’t initially connected design thinking to services. Since then, of course, they have discovered that design thinking is needed in services more than it is anywhere else.
The more important question is how service design relates to strategy. In a service business, design is the link that connects strategy to execution. You design the arena in which company and customer come together.
What does service design mean for customer service?
Customer service is just one aspect of the overall customer experience, and it’s very often the one that customers have when something has gone wrong. In our dream world, the customer service line would hardly ever ring, and customer service folks wouldn’t be armed and ready to defend the company on Facebook and Twitter because you’ve designed your service in such a way that you reliably, consistently, and profitably meet customer expectations.
But like every other part of the customer journey, customer experience needs to be designed because that’s also a chance to ‘woo, wow, and win’ customers—and it may be your last chance to make an impression on a customer.
How do you define “critical customer interactions”?
Most services are like journeys, with beginnings, middles, ends, and numerous touchpoints along the way. All touchpoints matter, but some become moments of truth. For example, it should be easy to add a new car to your automobile insurance policy—and it’s irritating if it’s hard—but filing a claim is a moment of truth and a critical customer interaction.
Every business has them. We think of them as “Ahh” and “Ow!” moments: interactions that can make or break the bond you have with customers. An important part of service design is identifying those moments, then making darn sure that you earn an “Ahh” every time. That doesn’t let you off the hook for other touchpoints; you want to be excellent from one end of the journey to the other. But customers will overlook a few lapses—just not when they come at one of these critical interactions.
Can you touch on the nine service design archetypes detailed in the book?
Different companies in the same industry offer different value propositions, although they ostensibly provide the same thing. The Ritz-Carlton, Motel 6 and Airbnb all offer a bed for a night and a roof over your head, but they are offering very different experiences and making very different promises to their customers. They aren’t competitors, because they’re not going after the same customer for a given transaction.
Every company is unique, but value propositions can be grouped into archetypes. There’s the Classic, like the Ritz or Mercedes-Benz. There are Trendsetters, like Apple or Warby Parker. There are Bargains such as Walmart, and Safe Choices, like a restaurant where the food won’t give you heartburn and the bill won’t give you a heart attack.
When you discover your archetype, you learn a lot about how to design and deliver a winning customer experience—the look and feel, how employees should behave, what extras to offer and not offer, what customers will expect of you.
You can also find new sources of ideas by looking at companies of the same archetype that are not in your industry. Trendsetters like Andaz and Zara can and should be inspirations for each other. Andaz should not be looking at the Mandarin Oriental and Zara shouldn’t be looking at Macy’s.
Archetypes are a critical way to connect service design to strategy. You’re not just sitting in a team room trying to improve every point of contact with a customer. You’re putting together and designing a collection of interactions that add up to something very big indeed—a series of experiences that bring your value proposition to life to ‘woo, wow, and win.’