Tag Archives: service design

This was UX, part I.

An infinity loop showing the customer journey of someone buying a cinema ticket and watching a film.

Cinema Experience Loop.

This is the first of an occasional series of explorations into my previous work. I’ll stay light on the reasons only to say that I’ve been clearing out some paperwork and rather than hang on to old documents I thought I’d scan them, creating a digital record (portfolio?) and have the opportunity to explore them in public.

First up is this hand-illustrated experience loop that looks at the ways in which we come to think about buying a cinema ticket and watching a film. Full disclosure this is a commissioned illustration based on my original sketches. I’d love to be that neat but, for a pitch, it needed a draughtsman’s hand.

So, we start on the left side with a motivation trigger. What makes a prospective cinema-goer interested? We imply that a decision to watch something has already been made and this circle investigates the processes being made to identify why the customer chooses this particular cinema (brand). The early phase of influence is all about holding on to a customer that could easily flip to a different venue or decide not to go at all if there is friction in the process of determining a match between film, scheduling and the booking experience. This period, from a creative perspective, opened up lots of discussion around what the on-site and off-site experiences are and how they increase motivation or add friction. How does, for example, the role of review sites like Rotten Tomatoes or, frankly, Google, impact on the linear nature of this flow. How might the (ahem) cadence of this part of the process change depending on whether you’re looking for the next few hours or in the next week?

We looked at the impact of losing a prospect at this point. How might we encourage them back into the decision and consideration phase? We might think about creative ways to re-target and the requirement to have a technical solution in place that identifies those people that are dropping out of the process.

By contrast, the process of attending the cinema is explored on the right-hand side. This is where we looked to add a little friction, slow it down and engage the customer to embed a brand experience that is memorable. Creatively we wanted to introduce ideas around the venue arrival, recognition of the customer at point-of-sale and the personalisation of the foyer experience. How might we influence that crucial ‘take your seats’ phase, where your sense of anticipation is at its peak and where you’re most receptive to the little moments of delight that make the brand stand out?

The film itself is the green section, not much we can do here. This was largely out of our brand’s control. They could deliver exceptional sound and visuals – technology and seating design that was a cut above, but this was out of the purview of our pitch. At the end of the film, the opportunity to embed a great memory is significant. Kahneman talks of the effect of a crashing cymbal at the end of an orchestral score and this is the analogous moment, in more candid terms: don’t fuck it up. To this end we had the opportunity to discuss the rating or review of the experience on exit and the supporting of advocacy, finding creative ways to build on that classic behaviour of walking out of the cinema excitedly chattering about what you’ve just seen – how could this, for example, be broadcast more immediately so that it might influence people in the decision phase?

Finally, there’s a period of reflection. A little later than that foyer exit, perhaps in the day or so after the event where the brand has an opportunity to deepen the memory and connection of the experience with reward, follow-up and loyalty options that potentially build on the momentum and retain the cinema goer within the brand’s orbit such that any future decision to view is even more likely to result in a return to our client’s site and location.

As an exercise, this was a classic customer journey analysis and was the result of deep, intensive thinking and research during a pitch. It’s the tip of a strategic iceberg and was visually the framework which we used to introduce and anchor the creative ideas we presented. It was a demonstration to our client that we thought about the role of loyalty, of the critical touchpoints and potential leaks. We could highlight the interventions we had designed: exceptionally easy booking and film discovery, a personalised welcome and pre-booked refreshments, an effortless review-and-share interaction.

I’m sure it can be critiqued and holes identified. It’s pitch material and therefore hardly the most intensively researched and finessed work – not like you might do with a multi-year client, but I’m proud of what it allowed us to present and the manner in which it demonstrates that UX can borrow from service design principles to add essential context to the flows, screens and interactions we design and present.

Get in the comments on the blog/LinkedIn and let me know what you think. More of this sort of thing soon come.

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Customer Service Isn’t Rocket Science

Last year at dConstruct in Brighton, Kelly Goto (in a rather rushed, though charming, presentation) mentioned that we were reaching a point where user experiences were now, generally speaking, easy-enough to use. Not brilliant in most cases, but at a sufficient baseline that it was hard to find atrocious examples of  user experience.

Perhaps in North America. I recently went to Canada for the first time in many years and was instantly reminded on my first night there with Deb and Naomi, that the tipping-culture of the colonies is such that customer service is just consistently better. The simple motivating economics of working for tips begets a better experience. Here, not so much.[Be warned, what follows is a definite White Whine/First World Problem].

Stovax for example. I’ll try and keep this short. 2 Years ago we had a wood burning stove installed. I bought it online to save money, I had it installed by a local company. I think it now needs a service. I think this because I’m risk-averse and conscious that there are things like CO2 that can leak (possibly fatally) if not checked.

So, I start the process of trying to get it serviced. I start with the manufacturer, using their site to locate authorised resellers and service agents in my area. That was painless, their site allows me to see those offering service too, so I don’t need to bother retail-only outlets. But then it unravels. Each shop I emailed said they wouldn’t do it. Nobody would come out for a small fee to make a potential future customer happy. It begs the question why they would even say they were service agents. I got short shrift from all of them:

Galleon Fireplaces in Surbiton (Stovax’s preferred retailer) – Would not service a stove, despite it being less than 2 miles from their store, as it was not purchased from them. But they never responded to my email asking, I had to call in to be told, bluntly. In fact in all the dealings I’ve ever had with them to buy accessories they’ve been incredibly surly and rude on the phone and in-store.

EcoFires in Fleet – Despite selling us the stove, and despite several emails, Peter Hillier and Phillip Edwards never responded to my enquiry at all.

The Original Grate Expectations – Did respond by email but would not service a stove they didn’t install [despite me being told by Stovax they would].

The Fireplace Shop, Guildford – Neither Max nor anyone at the shop ever responded to my email

Croydon Mechanical & Electrical Service – Never responded to my email.

Cast Iron Fireplace Company – Listed on HETAS as a service agent for stoves yet Maureen was quick to respond to me to say “we do not carry out any servicing”, when I pointed out that they’re listed as such, she passed the buck and said it was not their site and they’d simple ‘suggest they change their wording’.

Kindle Stoves – Teddington, Did respond and Clare actually explained why they wouldn’t take on a small job like that during their peak installation season, providing some financial justification and pointing me at a possible solution.

By this point I was exasperated and chased it up with Stovax pointing out that its dealer network was failing customers. And yet again, it’s just a poor generic response.

It took [edit]17 days to respond to my email and when they did they simply said they don’t service (I wasn’t asking them to), then saying their dealers do (well, they say they do but they don’t). It took another 12 days after I replied that they said [paraphrased] ‘not our problem, blame the retailers’ and in doing so were entirely not bothered that I was unhappy and that their product was unusable. Instead they just blindly pointed me at more retailers that I’d have to ring/email. They passed the buck and instead acted as a reluctant and largely unhelpful directory service. In the end it was nearly a month after my original website enquiry that the chain of emails with Stovax Customer enquiries ended without a single apology for the delay in responding, the poor service from the dealer network they rely on or an acknowledgement that their emails had all the human tone of an automaton. Their website still suggests the same retailers. And this from a company that paid one of their directors nearly £500k in 2010.

Email customer service has allowed the agents to filter and respond in their own time, to not have to listen to a frustrated customer and to hide behind anonymity and stock responses.

What I just don’t get is that it’s not hard:

1. Respond quickly – email isn’t an excuse to sit on a problem until you can be bothered to get round to it, if you don’t have the time, employ more staff, change your working practises, don’t make the customer bear the burden.

2. Be personal – stock responses feel horribly generic. Named customer service representatives are much much better, it helps customers feel they they are being treated as a human being.

3. Always, always offer a solution – Several of the emails from the retailers and the manufacturer basically just stated the situation ‘we can’t help’ missing the irony that this itself is not helpful. Even if you can’t help, try to offer a solution where somebody else can so that the customer can at least associate you with some goodwill.

This stuff seems so obvious, common courtesy, manners even. Sadly, to suggest we’ve reached a baseline of good experience in the face of evidence like this is naive in my opinion. Small British business like those above you would think would be chasing every customer tail going in a time of financial prudence. Instead they’re sitting-on and mismanaging communications with potential new sources of revenue. They’re now in a situation where their reputation for at least one customer is permanently online, searchable and on-record as a bad one.

I’ve never had a strong urge to run a small business but I’d like to think that, if I did, I’d at least manage the customer experience from sale to service a damn site better than most of this lot.

UPDATE 17:57 25/Jan: Credit where it’s due, I have heard already this afternoon from Alun Williams at HETAS (industry regulator) and Stovax both of whom have be conciliatory and, in the case of the latter, are investigating.

Tagged , , , , ,

Apple Stores: Experience Design = Great. Reality = Aaagh!

Rory Cellan-Jones writes over at the BBC dot.Rory blog today about the emergence of the Microsoft facsimile of the Apple retail store experience. I contend that we shouldn’t fawn too much over the Cupertino firm’s success here.

I am an Apple fan, albeit one without the disposable cash to have actually bought one of their computers. I have bought several iPods and my iPhone at the Apple retail store. My local store is Kingston [photo: a typical Saturday] and I suspect this store is representative of their mall units in the UK. It’s wonderfully designed inside with clear experience design – the analysis of which is covered well here. The reality is that the store is incredibly popular and consequentially the experience takes a pounding. I’d love to spend time browsing the Apple TV interface and discovering if the paucity of content has improved to the point that I might buy one. But I can’t because on a Saturday I’m lucky if after 5 minutes of trying I have actually managed to get near it. There are lots of teenagers who have absolutely no intention of purchasing nor the money to do so but they’re in the store in their hundreds. They stand two-three deep around £1500 machines taking photos of their faces and warping them, updating their Facebook status’ “in the Apl str, LOL” and generally cooling my enthusiasm for the brand.

Of course I can see that these teenage browsers are prospects themselves in a few years’ time or – through their parents’ wallets – in the near future. I’m not really attempting to make an assessment of the financial success of the Apple store (for which a selection of financials need to be considered). What I am really trying to draw attention to is that we are often a little too quick to wax on about such experiences without actually thinking them through by actually experiencing it. This means ethnographic reporting following a field trip out to the store with a given sequence of tasks to perform/observe. A report under these conditions would surely reveal more about the service experience than the  blind hyperbole of jumping on that jolly popular bandwagon.

Tagged , , ,