The prosaically-named SERVQUAL scale for measuring service quality originally contained 22 separate metrics for evaluating services. Recognizing that the scale was too complex the authors grouped the attributes into five categories: tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy. It was a step forward but it wasn’t until 1992 that they hit upon a clever mnemonic for re-ordering the scale: The RATER model.

Reliability – Ability to perform the service dependably and accurately.

Assurance – Employees’ knowledge and courtesy and their ability to inspire trust and confidence.

Tangibles – Appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel and communication materials.

Empathy – Caring, individualised attention given to customers.

Responsiveness – Willingness to help customers, provide prompt service and solve problems.

It’s a subtle shift but I appreciate being able to quickly run through the service metrics in my head when I’m out in the field without lugging around the Journal of Retailing.

I’m a fan of mnemonics. Besides the five Ws, one that I use all the time is LATCH, developed by Richard Saul Wurman to describe the possible axes for organizing information: Location, Alphabetical, Time, Category and Hierarchy. I’m also quite fond of the AEIOU ethnographic framework developed at eLab: Activities, Environments, Interactions, Objects and Users.

Palojono rounds up several more ethnographic frameworks with helpful mnemomic devices. A(x4), POSTA and POEMS (along with a couple that lack memorable hooks). They’re not particular to service design but they’re useful supplements to RATER in the design research toolkit.

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