Achieving excellent service design (article)

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In this article, Derek Stockley discusses the importance of excellent service design.

Good design should be inherent in everything we use and do

I often become frustrated at what I label 'poor design'. I go to perform a simple task and the object I am using is poorly designed, at least for my use.

A simple example is a particular basic can opener, the type you fit to the top of the can and turn as it cuts the lid. We have one model that has square 'ears' instead of round ones. Consequently, for hard to open cans, it digs into my large thumbs very 'sharply'.

I stayed in a hotel recently. The room was well furnished including a nice desk for the business traveller. On the desk was a very attractive lamp. The only problem, to keep it nice, the switch was hidden away and it took me two minutes to find it.

This one may be a little unfair. I believe any parent should be able to walk into a teenager’s room when they are not there, look at the CD player (radio, TV, etc.) and be immediately able to locate the on/off switch so the loud noise can be eliminated.

"If I cannot use it easily, it is broken"

I heard this at a web usability conference this week. Any good webmaster should know that websites have to be very easy to use. Websites have to be fast and responsive, or the visitor quickly goes on to another site.

One presenter stated:

"If I cannot use it easily, it is broken"

If you have a wide variety of users or customers, your design has to cater for them.

On websites, people 'navigate' though the site in different, but common ways. Fancy or flashy different navigation methods may appear progressive, but they only complicate matters for the end users.

I once saw a shower facility in a hospital, the main patients being elderly. Some well intentioned designer came up with a better 'wheel' system to control the hot and cold water. It was a simple design, but it only caused confusion. The patients had used a hot and cold tap all their lives. They understood what to do. They did not understand the wheel. (If the hospital was concerned about 'easy to open' taps, they should have installed the ones with the special rubber washers.)

Well designed products are easy to use. They do what is expected. They cater for all intended users.

Good design applies to customer service

Good design also applies to customer service processes.

I recently asked a group of participants in a training program to provide some examples of good customer service. They struggled. They remembered examples of exceptional customer service. They also remembered many examples of poor service.

It is not surprising that good service could not be remembered. Good service is seamless. Its like going to a well run restaurant. The waiting staff obviously bring you food and drink, but they do it in such a way that you are only mildly conscious of it. Your conversation is not interrupted when they take the plates away.

We do many day-to-day transactions without thinking about them. You are only going to remember your visit to the bank if the queue was too long or the bank teller could not do what you wanted. Or alternatively, they provided an unexpected and extra value service.

You cannot have exceptional customer service every time, otherwise it is no longer exceptional.

As I have stated before, the real challenge is to achieve seamless service every single time.

Summary and conclusion

Any good product or service design will meet the different requirements of all users. Good design means that what the user expects actually occurs. Customers will remember the things you do poorly or exceptionally well.

Related article

Exceptional customer service is discussed at: exceptional customer service defined article.

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