Archive for April, 2008

Gerald Buckely writes about his attempts to board an American Airlines flight by scanning a PDF of the boarding pass displayed on his iPhone. I’m amazed they let him try it (Southwest Airlines turned him down) but it worked so there’s the potential for a new co-created touchpoint in airline travel.

[via intuire]

The New York Times has an interview with a social psychologist named Daniel Gilbert who talks about the difference between experiences and products.

Another thing we know from studies is that people tend to take more pleasure in experiences than in things. So if you have “x” amount of dollars to spend on a vacation or a good meal or movies, it will get you more happiness than a durable good or an object. One reason for this is that experiences tend to be shared with other people and objects usually aren’t.

I laughed when I read the followup:
Q. Have you just expressed a very anti-American idea?

Gilbert deftly shoots down that notion:

Oh, you can spend lots of money on experiences. People think a car will last and that’s why it will bring you happiness. But it doesn’t. It gets old and decays. But experiences don’t. You’ll “always have Paris” — and that’s exactly what Bogart meant when he said it to Ingrid Bergman. But will you always have a washing machine? No.

I think this is a nice counter-argument to the idea that we have an easier time embuing artifacts with emotional meaning than intangible services or experiences.

Chris Noessel explores the synergies between Service Design and Cooper’s Goal-Directed Design.

Most people think of Goal-Directed Design techniques as focused on product design, but they work equally well for services. A service is comprised of the various “touchpoints” between a customer and a business. Touchpoints include public-facing systems such as web sites and web-enabled software, but can include other channels as well, such as brick-and-mortar stores, points of sale, interactive voice response systems, email and postal mail, too.

It’s a good exposition, but I’m surprised to see Cooper making it. They’re a dyed-in-the-wool software design consultancy and service design seems like an odd cultural fit. On the other hand, Chris is a graduate of the Interaction Design Institute at Ivrea where a lot of early work in service design took place.

Either way it’s bittersweet to see the discipline filtering into the mainstream. Just the other day I read on a blog that service design is HOT. We can do without the bandwagon.

It looks like Don Norman’s got himself a little of that Service Design religion. He recently gave a lecture on the subject at the Institute of Design in Chicago:

The overarching topic was that service design is the same as what the business world calls “operations” and that there is so much opportunity in this area. Operations, though, doesn’t get this yet. Business-driven operations mostly focuses on optimization and efficiency in driving down costs but this is so often done in silos with short-term profits in mind, leaving huge opportunity to optimize what’s most important — profits — by looking at areas for designing meaningful experiences that improve long-term customer retention in the front stage of the service and enhancing the many employee-to-employee interactions in the back stage.

From a glance at his website, it looks like Norman is viewing service design through the lens of the Kellogg School of Management and the McCormick School of Engineering. It’s not particularly surprising, but seeing service design reduced to operational concerns and stripped of the moral imperative of a triple bottom line is a little disappointing. It’s also not clear how far a School of Engineering would go toward embracing principles of co-creation. On the other hand, Norman conflates experience design with service design (using Disney as an example of the later) so he’s casting a wider net than I would expect from a purely operational perspective. It’s a tossup.

I’d really like to see a transcript or podcast of this talk. It was an hour and a half lecture so I’m sure he covered a lot of ground.

Update: Transcript added.

Robert J. Glushko and Lindsay Tabas from UC Berkeley wrote a paper last summer exploring the tension between front stage service design and back stage system design.

Service designers with a “front stage mindset” strive to create service experiences that people find enjoyable, unique, and responsive to their needs and preferences. Front stage designers use techniques and tools from the disciplines of human-computer interaction, anthropology, and sociology such as ethnographic research and the user-centered design approach to specify the desired experience for the service customer. They capture and communicate their service designs using modeling artifacts that include personas, scenarios, service blueprints, and interactive prototypes.

Service designers with a “back stage mindset” follow different goals and techniques. They strive for efficiency, robustness, scalability, and standardization. Even though some back stage activities are carried out by people, and others carried out by automated processes or applications, the back stage mindset tends to treat people as abstract actors.

So instead of modeling the preferences and interactions of people, back stage designers identify and analyze information requirements, information flows and dependencies, and feedback loops. They use concepts and techniques from information architecture, document engineering, data and process modeling, industrial engineering, and software development. Their typical artifacts include use cases, process models, class diagrams, XML schemas, queuing and simulation models, and working software.

It isn’t a question of choosing between these two perspectives. Service designers need to care about both. The OZOCar and Heathrow posts from a few weeks ago demonstrate the peril of neglecting the system components.

[via Second Verse]

Adam Lawrence reports on a new type of car dealership over on the Work Play Experience blog. Rather than selling cars from a particular manufacturer (Mersedes-Benz, BMW, Volkswagen), they focus on a particular segment of the market:

At familycars.de the concept is far smarter. They sell only family cars — from a bunch of different manufacturers, and out of a single showroom. The whole experience is well designed – with activities for kids, childcare, family-friendly opening times (a miracle in regimented Germany), play areas inside and out, free dvd players for those long journeys – and even family-oriented financing.

[via choosenick]

Somehow I think things could be worse

After Heidi [Klum] challenged designers to rethink the uniform for US postal workers on Project Runway, she says that flight attendants, baristas, and cashiers are constantly asking her to do something about their horrible attire.

[via styledash]

Aaron Oppenheimer posts a nice two-by-two comparing urgency and frequency of product and service encounters. He maps four quadrants for interaction: primary, secondary, auxilary and emergency encounters.

We use this line of thought to understand the difference between […] using a product on day one and […] using it on day 100. It’s a very useful way to characterize the changing nature of interaction with a product, and to give consumers a coherent experience encounter no matter when they engage with a device, service, or business.

See also: All Touchpoints, All The Time

Business Week has a new article by Ziba’s Sohrab Vossoughi on the silver bullet of experience innovation:

There is still one frontier that remains wide open: experience innovation. This is the only type of business innovation that is not imitable, nor can it be commoditized, because it is born from the specific needs and desires of your customers and is a unique expression of your company’s DNA.

The problem is, experience innovation can be imitated, and Pine and Gilmore argue that it can also be commoditized. The interplay between Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee exemplifies this problem precisely. Chuck-E-Cheese is another example. Its experience was imitated, lock-stock-and-barrel, by a competitor called Showbiz Pizza in the early 1980s.

Vossoughi also frames experience in a way that seems strange to me. He cites the “experience” of a pair of Lululemon Athletica yoga pants. He’s talking about the brand experience, and I’m willing to believe that shopping in one of their retail outlets could qualify as experience, but not simply the act of wearing the pants. Products aren’t experiences in and of themselves. They need to be incorporated into a service layer and only then incorporated into an experience offering.

My final point of contention comes later in the article when he claims that there are three areas of innovation: technology, product, and experience. I don’t necessarily disagree with these areas, but they’re each contained within Doblin’s far more comprehensive Ten Types of Innovation framework which includes important facets like service innovation, process innovation and business model innovation.

Ziba is a fantastic design firm, and one of only a handful actually working in the field of experience design here in the US, but this doesn’t present the discipline in its best light.

Wrigley Field Parking

Here’s another emergent service I’d never heard of before. Apparently, people who live near Wrigley Field in Chicago sell their parking spaces to Cubs fans on game night. There aren’t any official rules governing the service, but most of the residents honor a “dibs” system for snagging cars.