Service Gestures

One of the ideas I really like from Designing Services with Innovative Methods is the concept of service gestures. Mikko Koivisto writes about them in his essay:

In service all the processes and routines can be determined by the smallest details. These small details are called service gestures. Service gestures are for example when the check-in ground crew circle the departure gate on the ticket or when the toilet paper has been folded in the hotel room [p 147].

Service gestures aren’t a magic bullet; after all, you’ve got to learn the trade itself before you bother with the tricks-of-the-trade. But this idea shares a kinship with the “random acts of kindness” I wrote about a few months ago. They’re both examples that capture our attention and add value to a service.

One difference is that the service gestures Koivisto refers to are codified. Folding over the toilet paper serves a particular signaling function within the context of housekeeping. This signal is common enough that we come to expect it when we stay at a hotel and miss it when it’s absent. The gestures I’m interested in are different. They’re acts we can’t anticipate.

Here’s an example. When I was growing up I had my hair cut by the same barber from the time I was three until I left for college. It’s safe to say the service was routine. But once when I was a teenager the barber used an antique shaving cream dispenser and a straight razor to touch up my sideburns. I’d never had a straight razor shave before. It was a slow afternoon and the gesture wasn’t normally part of the service. But it made an impression and more than fifteen years later I still remember.

Each of us probably has a story to share about an otherwise tiny act that we cherish from a favorite service. What gestures have made an impression on you?

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