Thursday, 8 January 2009

service or trap?

Personally I am going through a refunding war with Lloyds TSB and I am not going to bore you guys with the frustrating details of the story but this experience actually makes me think about what a good service actually is.

I believe that both TSB and Amazon has invest hugely in their marketing, service process systems and trainnings, but still those investments only involve getting more customers to spend more money, otherwise interacting with the organisation becomes a total disaster. Interestingly, you see this clear separation between the 'product' and the 'service' (or often, 'customer service' or 'after-sale services'), even when the 'product' is a financial service or retail service itself. The 'product', clearly brings money to the organisation, while the 'service' often is considered as costing money - losing money to the customers. However, to the customer, it is one integrated experience that they had during the interactions with the organisation. And customers always notice failures in their experience, no matter whether it is in the ‘product’ or the ‘service’.

Good design can't be seen, only the bad ones get noticed because they get in the way. So true is it to design, so as to services. A service system needs to be designed to prepare for things to go wrong, and handling the errors at the same standard as the money-making situations. Otherwise we are only going to design services into beautiful traps. But do we design things to go wrong? We don't, obviously. Then why things go wrong so easily in service organisations? Because it is people we hand our design solutions to, not the assembly lines or the printers or the servers. And people interpret rules rather than simply follow. When the staff from ‘customer service’ departments have different (often more negative) attitude/understanding of the customer value than those from ‘product’ departments, they obviously treat the customer differently, even though both parts are in the same organisation, handling the same business offerings, treating the same customer.

A product designer of course can leave the ‘service’ matters to the service team. I am just curious... to whom can service designer leave these matters?
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