Monday, 18 January 2010

customer experience touch-point cards

Early on, I mentioned that we received a set of cards for creating customer experience touch-point from the AT-ONE project as a gift from the Nordic Service Design conference. Jeff posted some information about what the contents are, and I got really curious about the stories behind the developing and using of these cards, so I contacted Simon Clatworthy, the host of the conference as well as the manager of the AT-ONE project, with a list of questions.

Now let's see what Simon says about these really inspiring cards...

1. Where does the idea of producing touch point cards come from? Who made them? Is there any project context that gave birth to them?

The idea emerged when we started running workshops in the AT-ONE project two years ago. AT-ONE is a project that aims to assist the first stage of an innovation project - the Fuzzy Front End - using service design techniques. In AT-ONE, each of the letters relate to different aspects of service innovation - Actors, Touch-points, Offering, Need, Experience - and we have developed innovation workshops for each letter. As part of the Touch-Point workshops, we found ourselves needing touch-point examples to help with both mapping and analysis work (before a workshop) and for idea generation during the workshops themselves. We started out with lists, then photos and decided that what we needed was a set of cards that could both stimulate new thinking, but also help map out existing situations. When we realised that the conference was coming up, we decided to print up a set for the participants.

The cards were made by Ingvild Støvring and me together, both of us from AHO (the Oslo School of Architecture and Design). She took most of the photos and designed the cards, I created the content list and the tools for their use. We printed at a local printers after trying (and failing) to find a cheap foreign printer.

2. How would you describe the process of developing these cards developed? Were they prototyped or tested?

The development process has been kind of evolutionary over the past two years. We have run tons of Touch-Point workshops together with various companies, and various versions of support examples were developed to help communication and innovation. We have moved from texts to images to the combination shown on the cards. We have also developed several tools to help design teams facilitate new thinking about touch-points, and some of them are included with the cards. So, they have been prototyped several times and improved each time, most recently during our master course in Service Design last Autumn. It seems like the forced association method is the one that the students always like to use. I guess its because it encourages radical ideas and forces you to think in new directions.

3. Who are these card made for? I noticed there are five different ways you suggestedto play these cards, so I guess the card game is designed not only for design teams, would you describe a bit more about the possible situations that thesecards can be used?

The cards are made for cross-functional teams who are at the start phase of an innovation process. When teams come together, there is often an interesting but odd mix of people and varying degrees of design experience. One of the main things that happens in the start phase is team building - finding common ground and pulling together. At the same time, the strategic mandate the project has received is translated into a chosen direction for the project. Its a critical time for the project, since decisions made here have huge consequences for future direction. Hopefully the cards will help the team (or individual members) analyse the present situation (if there is one) and develop ideas for new services or service touch-points. We have tried to design them so that they can be usable by any team member or team facilitator. So far, they seem to work well, and I find myself using them regularly in different contexts.

The contexts for their use are as follows, but we have found that they can be used in other contexts as well.

Firstly, they are aimed to be used at the early stages of the innovation process, the fuzzy front end. This is a divergent stage in a project in which various directions are being explored, and many opportunities are still open. The cards aim to help analysis, reflection and idea generation during workshops in which multiple stakeholders are involved. Generally a design team includes stakeholders from across organisational silos and include a broad set of disciplines. The cards should hopefully assist communication accross these different boundaries, and help create a common understanding regarding various touch-point issues. They also make explicit, what earlier has been up inside peoples heads. This is a common comment about design and its role in process facilitation - the use of images creating a common understanding within a team - and its true. We have found that using the cards helps move the team forwards in a good way.

Use context 1: Mapping an existing situation.

The cards help map out an existing situation. For example, the team can go through each stage of a service (or customer) journey and pick out the touch-points that are relevant at each stage. From this, many aspects can be discussed, such as which touch-point is most important to the customer, which are (maybe) used in sequence, which are most frequently used etc. This helps get the discussion moving around how customers view the service through touch-points, and how they often jump between them. It can also help raise the discussion about who is reponsible for develping and maintaining each touch-point. It is always a surprise for a team to understand that there is often a total lack of touch-point coordination accross an organisation.

Use context 2: Identifying pain points

Once the service journey has been mapped out, then there are loads of things you can do. One of the things we find useful is to identify the touch points along the service journey that dont perform particularly well, and why. This can be a useful means for improving consistency of experience along the service journey.

Use context 3: Whose touch-point is it anyway

One of the things we have found out is that in large organisations, different departments can be responsible for different touch-points. This often comes as a shock to an organisation, but is something that is usually noticeable from the customer perspective. There can be different tones of voice, interaction styles, use of images, typography and especially different terminology. Identifying who is responsible for each touch-point and finding ways of coordinating between them can be very useful. So, what we do is simply to note who is responsible for each touch-point used to access the service.

Use context 4: Touch-point migration

An organisation might get lazy, or might just not have routines in place for updating their touch-points. Over time, a touch-point might become out of date or there could be a better touch-point alternative that can be migrated towards. This is particularly relevant when it comes to use of technology and discussions regarding self service. Going through the touch-point cards can give ideas for new touchpoints and can help map out a migration strategy from one touch-point to another.

Use context 5: Touch-point addition or subtraction

This one is aimed at challenging todays situation by removing important touch-points. Based upon the touch-point mapping, remove the main touch point at each stage of the service journey, and discuss how it can be replaced. Surprisingly, you will find that it can be replaced, and this can give you ideas regarding new facets to a service. It it cannot be replaced, then the team has gained a deeper understanding of the touch-points importance and role. The opposite of this is to pick a random card at each step of the service-journey and discuss how it could be used to improve the service. We have added some specific touch-points for this, such as "service integrated into a product" or "smart phone". This can be a useful task in many ways, particularly to help challenge todays situation, which might have deep historical roots and need updating. Thinking about how an iPhone app could improve the service is never a bad thing anyway.

Actually, a bit of a sidetrack here, but when we started the project we had one card for mobile phone. However, we realised quite quickly that technological development has moved so fast that there are mobile phones, internet enabled phones and smart phones running apps. We had to create several categories of phones, and will probably have to add even more over time, such as tablets perhaps.

Use context 6: Forced association to create new services

This one is a favourite in workshops, even though it doesn't always generate that many relevant ideas. In this task you are forced to create a service based upon random cards: pick two (or more) random cards from the pack and design a service for your client based only upon these two cards. Forced association is a well known technique to force you away from logical thinking, and doing this with the touch-point cards is a good way to force yourself to think differently. Quite often you will end up with useless combinations, but its easy to put the cards back and pick again. Its a fun and challenging way to look at touch-points, and often unearths useful reflections regarding a service.

As you can see, the cards help stimulate both understanding and various kinds of innovations. They can be used for anything from analytical approaches to idea generation to impulsive and radical new solutions, depending upon the project and project context. They can be used alone or in teams, and work well together with clients.

4. Have these touch point cards been used in projects yet? (for example student projectin AHO?) It would be great to have some examples of these cards being used indifferent context or projects.

The cards have been used in student projects and together with several service providers. The project has a collaboration with several organisations in Norway, but two main ones - a large insurance company (Gjensidige) and the National Lottery (Norsk Tipping). We have carried out two iterations of the methods used in AT-ONE per year, so have already run through 5 iterations of the process. The experience so far is very encouraging, and we are in the process of validating the process and individual tools at the moment. This is not an easy thing to do, since innovation is not always easy to measure. Where do ideas come from, where do they go, and do how do they become adapted underway? Is organisational change a more important innovation than the number of ideas generated? Does the focus upon touch-points that this particular tool encourages (there are tens of other tools too) lead to better consistency in a service over time? What we have found is that the tools help generate a lot of ideas. They also help give new perspectives and understanding, and particularly help companies understand how customers view their company through touch-points and over time. So far, we are pretty happy with these cards, and we will definitely print up some more quite soon. In addition, we will make them available as a download on, together with the other tools we are working upon.

If we were to remake them, I don't think I would change many things. There are some formulations that could be improved, and we have only scratched the surface when it comes to how to use them. I think its a good idea to set them free, so that people can add cards and add tasks. In that way they could continually evolve, which would be nice.

( from Simon Clatworthy, 18 Jan 2010)