How Is Your Business Supporting Your Customers?

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For much of the 20th century, businesses were focused on extracting resources, creating products, and providing services that simply met the needs of their customer. And yet, as they focused on what the customer was purchasing, very little emphasis was put towards how the customer interacted with the company as a whole. Perhaps your checked bag went missing after a recent enjoyable flight, or your speedy internet provider overcharged you and a customer service representative couldn’t figure out why.

During his workshop on incorporating service design as a startup, Marc Mueller, a UX researcher at Universal Mind, noted that commodities are fungible, goods tangible, services intangible, and experiences memorable. As a startup, there’s ample opportunity from day 1 to consider every touch point you will have with a customer – from their first interaction with your website to purchasing your product. Mueller followed by asking a thought provoking question to the room: How do you craft an experience that helps you compete with (or beat) the incumbents of your industry?

Crafting Your Service Design

Service design experts suggest that when you place equal value on the customer experience and the business process within every decision you make as an organization, you’ll have created a memorable interaction that will keep customers coming back for more. To execute service design as a business, determine how and where these four concepts fit into your business strategy: guests and hosts, actors and staging, narratives and encounters, or choreography.

It might sound a bit like Westworld, or perhaps more relatable to your last hotel stay, and there’s good reason for that. A well-executed service design places a heavy emphasis on ensuring that the four concepts mentioned above have your value proposition in mind. They understand your brand, how you communicate, and what leads to a successful delivery of your product or service. Ultimately, it affects every aspect of your business, not limited to your bottom line.

Consider the premium consumers pay for an Apple or Patagonia product and the experience they have in their retail stores. Buying a computer or jacket at Walmart might cost you less, but the experience and quality is worlds apart.

Tools of the Trade

Mueller proposed the exercise of thinking deeper about how you draft personas of your target customers. Most entrepreneurs build a persona based on how the marketing world views a customer; focusing on buying motivations and behaviors. This is fine for determining how to sell the product, but not how the product should work.

Instead, consider the way a designer would draft a persona. The focus shifts to user goals, behaviors and pain points, and helps tell the story of why a user chose a specific product versus an alternative. This deeper understanding helps to build empathy between the company and their user – the beginnings of a valuable experience.

To help dissect how that customer interacts with your product or service, and the pain points that exist within that process, let’s look at an experience at an airport through the use of a journey map. Journey maps are a visualization of the journey a persona typically goes through as part of their service experience.

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The x-axis in this case is time, and the y-axis is the emotional state of someone going through the airport. Once you’ve mapped out your customer’s journey, you’ve got the makings for a blueprint about your company’s service design. We’ll use the first four points on the airport journey to showcase how to craft your own blueprint:

Check-in Airport Arrival Check Bag Security
User Interaction Online check-in Entering terminal Engaging with service counter Documents & bags screened by TSA
Frontstage Desktop or mobile site Signage, cleanliness Ticket counter & bag tag TSA Agents, metal detectors
Backstage Flight status & seat selection Airport/terminal maps, Bar codes, conveyor belts ID verification, cameras, x-rays
Support Systems Web hosting Airport staffers Airline staffers, flight database Training, flyer database, mgmt

Based on these introductory tools for mapping out service design, you’ve now done the work of examining the trees within the forest, next up is to re-engage with the forest itself. With a clearer picture of the concepts presented earlier (guests and hosts, actors and staging, narratives and encounters, choreography) mapped out on your blueprint, now the question becomes what you innovate on.

Mueller suggests that every company, big or small, has the ability to spread their resources across the following three categories: Operational Excellence, Product Leadership, and Customer Intimacy. It’s within this realm that companies like Apple and Microsoft can compete in the market yet craft different experiences for their target customer based on their goals and pain points.


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