Archive for April, 2007

The Developing New Services [PDF 985K] presentation I linked to yesterday deserves a post of its own. Rae and Ogilvie make a pretty good case for service design and provide some other great examples to check out.

Enterprise, Starbucks, Progressive, OnStar, Netflix and Acela.

How to Rent a Car

Steve Portigal posted about his recent experience with Budget Rent A Car in Providence. Lots of examples of what not to do from a service design perspective. Peter Merholz also had a run-in with Budget a while back. He ended up asking if anyone actually likes renting a car.

I think so. My favorite rental company by far is Enterprise. They don’t just get the basics right (which Budget seems to have failed at); renting from Enterprise is actually a pleasure. Their employees seem empowered to go above and beyond the call of duty and no matter which city I’ve rented from, there’s always some little aspect of the service that’s unexpectedly nice. Last summer when I flew into St. Louis, they had a cooler with iced bottles of water on the shuttle from the airport. In Pittsburgh my car was waiting (already warmed up) by the time I walked from the agent desk to the garage. The winter before grad school I rented maybe a dozen cars from Enterprise with flawless service.

Maybe they’re not perfect, but they do enough right that it makes sense to look at exactly what’s going on with their service.

There’s a good analysis of the rental car industry in this PDF by Peer Insight Developing New Services [PDF 985K]. They reference Doblin’s Ten Types of Innovation and apply those levers to the rental car service across four broad categories: Finance, Process, Offering and Delivery (pg 22). Most rental car companies engage in feature warfare by focusing on the offering. Enterprise gets the offering right, but they go beyond that and exploit the finance and delivery segments as well with innovations in business model, channel, brand and customer experience.

Came across an inspiring interview (with a grandiose title) from 2006 over at the NextDesign Leadership Institute with Chris Downs of Live|Work and Gill Wildman of Plot. Lots of good stuff but this was especially nice:

One of the reasons why designers don’t often get to work in this area is that by the current nature of the practice (and here’s my epiphany in this conversation), I believe most designers are still waiting to be invited to the game!

The age of the designer passively waiting for the dream client and dream brief is now over! That’s official. If “designer” means anything now, I hope it comes to stand for the kind of activist who can grapple with the scale, complexity and interdependency of world issues. Just pick one, and then initiate new things that bring people together to work.

Don’t wait for the clients. Just get on with it.

HR Block Breakdown

I’ve used HR Block’s online tax service for the past ten years. It works pretty well for simple tax forms. They just import my information from year to year and I fill in any details that change. I deal with a single touchpoint for a couple hours per year. It’s turnkey.

But this year I decided to go into their office here in San Francisco and have them work up the forms for some of the contracting I did last summer. It’s a new system touchpoint for me and the service should have been better than online. Unfortunately, HR Block’s online and local services are completely separate.

Despite having ten years of tax data for me, including my return from 2005 here in San Francisco, their local office had no access to that information. Not even my name. To make matters worse, their online service doesn’t know that they’ve already done my taxes. I’m still getting breathless e-mails telling me that time is running out.

Personalized service is the only reason to keep using HR Block–there are plenty of other services out there. It seems like they’re missing a huge opportunity by keeping their online and offline systems segregated.