If you want to build great consumer experiences, make customer service your company’s priority, write Thomas A Stewart and Patricia O’Connell for Strategy+Business.
The service industry is responsible for approximately 68% of private sector gross domestic product worldwide, according to Stewart and O’Connell. But despite the industry’s predominance, most service companies still use operating models designed for the manufacturing industry, where the focus is on the quantity and quality of goods produced rather than interactions with customers.
Is it time to do away with this “industrial legacy” and embrace service design?
WHAT IS SERVICE DESIGN?
When an individual chooses to interact with your company he or she embarks on a journey; it is your responsibility to make that journey a positive experience. There are seven stages of your customer journey: need, planning, anticipation, embarkation, the event itself, disembarkation and memory. You must carefully design the customer experience, treating each stage as an opportunity to engage with your customers.
“At its heart, service design is the bridge between strategy and customer experience,” write Stewart and O’Connell. Your aim is to build a coherent system that ensures you provide consistently high quality service to your customers while simultaneously advancing towards your strategic goals.
PREPARING TO REDESIGN YOUR COMPANY
Your aim is to design your customer experience so that your strategic goals, your customers’ wants and needs and the interaction between your company and your customers are aligned. Before you start to redesign your company you must evaluate ten key elements of the customer experience:
1) Empathy. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. How do they experience your service?
2) Expectation. Are you managing your customers’ expectations so that they know what they will be getting and what they won’t be getting before any interaction takes place?
3) Emotion. What emotions are your customers bringing to the table? How can you ensure your customers end their journey feeling satisfied?
4) Elegance. Is the experience you are offering simple and complete? Your customers must get exactly what they expected to get before their journey began – no more, no less.
5) Engagement. Are the lines of communication open at every point of contact? Engaging with your customers will help you to gain a deep understanding of your customer experience and how you can improve it.
6) Execution. Are you delivering what you have promised?
7) Engineering. Neither you nor the customer should exert more effort than is absolutely necessary. Achieve technical excellence in order to eliminate all waste.
8) Economics. Provide value for money for your customers while ensuring you make the profit you expect.
9) Experimentation. Create a culture of innovation and make it easy to implement new offerings.
10) Equivalence. There is no point in making your customers happy if you are not advancing your strategic goals. You, your partners and your customers should all be satisfied.
REDESIGNING YOUR COMPANY
Once you have evaluated your customer experience you can start to redesign your company to provide the best possible customer experience. Your company is unique but good service design follows five basic principles:
1) Find the right customer for you. Decide what you want to offer your customers and target customers who are looking for what you are offering.
2) Meet your customers’ expectations. If you are doing your job properly your customers should never be surprised by their experience; they should walk away happy that they have been given everything they paid for.
3) Make it easy. If your company’s service design is solid the entire experience should be easy for both your staff and your customers.
4) Be coherent. Your customer experience must be consistent across your whole business. For example, it is no good perfecting the customer experience in your store but neglecting to address how customers experience your website.
5) Create an innovation process. Innovation is not just important to the creation of products, but it is also key to ensuring you provide the best possible service for your customers. Make sure that you put a process in place that allows you both to anticipate your customers’ needs – whether through staff insight or customer feedback – and create and implement innovative ways of addressing those needs.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAIL
“Service needs to be laid into the company’s keel, the way performance is built into a BMW or intuitiveness is designed into an iPad,” write Stewart and O’Connell. So don’t leave your customer experience to chance or take a piecemeal approach to change: be bold and redesign your entire company to ensure that service is at the heart of everything you do.