OZOcar Service Encounter
Adam Greenfield rips into OZOcar’s service offering after a lackluster trial run. I’ve never tried OZOcar myself but it’s a little surprising to hear this report. They’ve been working with a former Live|Work service designer for the past couple years. I’d expect them to have their act together by now.
You know what? The experience sucked so bad I’m not even willing to give them another chance. They failed both my major mission-critical requirements for a car service — picking me up on time, getting me to my destination on time — and most of the minor ones as well.
Greenfield’s critique illustrates a few different service design principles that are worth pointing out.
Process vs Outcome
Service quality has two primary components: process and outcome. Customers don’t start keying into process characteristics (courtesy, responsiveness, access, communication, credibility, empathy and tangibles) until the outcome has been satisfied (reliability, competence and security). Think of it this way: it doesn’t matter how friendly your driver is if his car doesn’t also have four wheels and an engine.
OZOcar technically met their outcome obligation in this case (deliver me from point A to B on time). Greenfield got to the airport in one piece and in time for his flight. The trouble is, they fell so short on projecting reliability and competence that he barely had a chance to notice the process characteristics.
The Prius itself was new, nimble, and clean. Even though it’s not designed as a fleet car-service vehicle … it was certainly comfortable enough for the ~40 minute trudge to Kennedy.
Read more about process vs outcome in SERVQUAL: Review and Critique from the European Journal of Marketing.
Expectation vs Perception
Both process and outcome are judged based on the difference between the customer’s expectation of service quality and their subjective perception of actual service delivery. It’s known as the “gaps model” of service quality. In this case, Greenfield had come to expect byzantine routes from New York drivers, so that particular failing didn’t hurt the service:
… frankly it’s nothing I haven’t experienced before in the wild & woolly framework of NYC driving. We’ll count that as a wash.
On the other hand, the expectation that the driver would be able to find a common address (and the correct terminal) wasn’t even close. This could have been a failing of a particular driver, but it reflects poorly on OZOcar’s hiring and training.
It’s much harder to understand the lack of wireless internet:
…I’d heard that each of their cars sports ultrafast WiMax wireless broadband … The driver doesn’t seem to have heard of any in-car wireless network, but by now I’m so irritated that it doesn’t even signify.
Sometimes, with a new service it takes a while for front-line employees to get up to speed (many Starbucks employees weren’t initially aware of the in-store music tie-in with Apple, for example) but in this case WiMax wireless internet, along with an Apple iBook and Sirius satellite radio were all big selling points (tangibles) for the OZOcar service when it launched.
Read more about expectations vs perceptions in Five Imperatives for Improving Service Quality from the Sloan Management Review.
Great services have specific plans for how to recover from mistakes and regain trust in the eyes of their customer. OZOcar made their fair share of mistakes, but they had only the most basic of recovery mechanisms:
…a full ten minutes after my scheduled pickup time, I got a dispatcher on the line who told me that the driver “couldn’t find my building.” … since I’m already on the phone with his dispatcher I’m able to vector him in. More or less, anyway; he still comes down the driveway the wrong way.
From an outcome point of view they fell severely short on reliability and competence but never made any concession toward that failure. An outcome-based recovery mechanism could have taken the form of a discount or a coupon for a future trip. For process-based failures, recovery can be as simple as a sincere apology. Unfortunately, the OZOcar driver remained silent, despite delivering a terrible service. The result was that Adam posted a 937-word rant on his blog, something that could almost certainly have been avoided.
Read more about service recovery in The Service Concept: The Missing Link in Service Design Research? from the Journal of Operations Management.