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A bit late  posting this, but I thought I would share this anyway, because its a nice touch to the patient experience. According to ABC news (link), babies born at Magee-Women’s Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center get special stockings if they’re in the hospital on Christmas Day.

A nice touch, and I’m sure, a memorable service experience – something to keep for a lifetime.

babies in stockings2

I am very lucky to be working with Ted Matthews at AHO (link), who is completing a PhD in the area of  design and experience with a focus upon the ritual and sacred. The discussions we are having about service design and meaning are really useful, and are challenging some of the traditional thoughts about service design (lots more about this when Ted writes his PhD).

I just want to congratulate Ted on having an article published in Artifact (link). Its framed in academic language, but well worth the read. Ted raises the question of who should design a service that uses ritual or the sacred:

But then who would decide the form of these new kinds of touchpoints and what would their form be? Currently the designer gives form to these points of contact, but in the theory presented here, the intangible substance is something that is generated out of the community, in some way collectively co-produced.This might make it difficult to find these forms or at least add a layer of complexity where the customer would need to find a way to materialize a form of the collective will.

Ted is now designing improved service offerings for the Norwegian Football Federation (link – sorry, its in Norwegian) and has now spent over a month trying to answer the question of how to design ritualized services.

Democratic Republic of Congo soccer fans gesture ahead of  their African Nations Cup Group B soccer match against Ghana in Port Elizabeth


It seems that since customers (or in this case, football supporters) do not view their behaviour as ritualized, or understand the cultural basis for their behaviour, then they find it difficult to comment or articulate how a ritual could be provided. This seems to be a case where the designer has to culturally interpret the symbology of football and convert it into a service. I think this shows the difference between user-centric approaches and experience-centric approaches to design. The greater the focus upon experience, the greater the role of the designer as cultural intermediary.

Ted also challenges the idea of a touch-point, or at least most interpretations of touch-points, which view touch-points as being the tangibles of a service:

Perhaps touchpoints would need to be redefined as nonphysical; as a myth, as a complex ritual or even one as simple as a handshake.

This is something that we have been advocating for quite a while, and non-physical aspects such as myth, smell, sound are included as part of the touch-point cards (available free of charge here).

Teds work seems to challenge our view of how we design, who should design and the materials of service design. This relates to my recent post on Service Design and making meaning (link) and how we should design for experience. I think we can expect to see some interesting results coming from the football project, both in terms of new services but also in terms of new theory too – and that explains why its so great to work with design research (and Ted).

I wrote recently about the turn-around at Ryanair (link), in which they have systematically been improving the customer experience. Well, it seems that this is bearing fruit. The recent investor communication from Ryanair shows it contributing to consensus-beating third quarter net profits of €49m and a full-year profits upgrade.


As reported in the Financial Times (link), Ryanair has had :

6 percentage point increase in seats filled to 88 per cent. A growing band of gentleman business travellers are raising their hats to your stewardesses.

And that is before the recent fuel price drop.

Although it is difficult to categorically link the two things, it does seem that improving the customer experience also improves the bottom line. This is something I often get asked about, particularly if Zappos (a stand-out experience retailer) actually made a profit before being bought up (the answer is here). Usually, I don’t have many figures to hand, but this is a nice one to have in the back pocket.

I just read this piece on CNET (link) about how Apple is well placed in a tech world that is becoming more fashion oriented. Personally, I think that the word fashion is used a little too often to explain our experiential hunger for products and services. It seems like the word fashion is a safe term to use, because in some way we all understand the term. Whether we like it or hate it (and it does divide the waters), it seems like fashion explains away the desire we have for new experiences.

There was one quote that I think stood out for me as being important. I have slightly reworded it here to get the meaning across in a more generic design context, (I removed the Apple word):

the minute they set eyes on an a product, they feel something that they might not be able to define. But it’s something that their hearts and souls identify with. It’s something they want to be a part of.

CNET – Feb. 2015

This is something that gets to one of the core parts of design – making meaning through design. It gave me a flashback to one of my favorite books about design, called The Design Experience by Mike Press and Rachel Cooper. It is from 2003, but is surprisingly fresh today. It describes the role of the designer in this century incredibly well, and although it is mainly product-based, it also opens up for other fields of design. This is how they describe design (again I have edited the text slightly to summarise):

A designer is a maker … the skills of making lie at the very heart of design. The designer makes meaning possible.  Crafting a design solution is merely the first part, which is continued by users of consumers as part of their lives…. Every designed  product, communication or environment provides human experiences. And, all experiences, whether in the city, kitchen, cinema or elsewhere carry meaning and forms of representations. By enabling meaning, the designer is a maker of culture. The designer is a cultural intermediary.

I think this is an important point, and when Verganti talks about innovation in this decade as being a decade strongly influenced by meaning innovation (link), I think we need to understand much more the designers role as enabling meaning and as cultural intermediary.

Verganti meaning innovation



If we relate this to services and service, then I think it becomes clear that what we are looking for in service is the experience of subscribing, using and building a relationship to a service. This was noted already a long time back by Abbott:

“What people really desire are not products, but satisfying experiences. Experiences are attained through activities. In order that activities may be carried out , physical objects or the services of human beings are usually needed … People want products because they want the experience-bringing services which they hope the products will render”

Abbott: Quality and competition 1955

So, what are the Apple equivalents in the world of Service? Well, Apple are pretty good at that too – there are not many retail experiences where both customers and employees clap as you walk into or out of the store.

Apple applause as leave store


When my friends enthuse about Uber in Stockholm then it is precisely the meaning that Uber offers that they are enthusing about. There is a certain amount of interest about the functional aspect, but the majority of the comments relate to the experience; the experience of simplicity, control and the feeling that an organization wants to offer you something special and make you feel like someone special. I think Uber offers a great example of modern-day service desirability, in the same way that the article from CNET about Apple talks about product desirability. There are others too, and this points to the fact that service designers need to see themselves as making meaning and that this meaning is core to the service experience. Not only does this meaning have to have cultural relevance, it has to fit the brand of the provider. My colleague Mauricy Filho (link) describes this well, when he describes how services marketing has to move from advertising that tells how great a service is, to designing and delivering the service experience such that people can actually experience how great a service is. Service design is about making meaning and interacting with culture (the spirit of the times, the Zeitgeist). Without understanding the Zeitgeist, and being able to design a service so that it has both has a brand and zeitgeist fit, then we will not have the meaning innovation that Verganti talks about. And that means we will never develop a service that others talk about too.

I recently saw this on the BBC  news site (link) showing how the creative industries are showing strong growth. Not only do the creative industries generate almost £77 billion in income, they also now employ 5.6% of UK jobs. Its nice to note that Design had a year on year growth of almost 18%. In the US, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis released figures to show the creative industries contributed more than $698bn (£460.4bn) to the US economy in 2012 – about 4.3% of US goods and services.It would be nice to be able to show how much growth Service Design has had during the past year. From the activity I note in Norway, it seems that it is in strong growth.

Here is the table, taken from the  Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) report (an interesting focus area for a government department):

Jobs in the UK creative economy

I am super enthusiastic about two recent interactive touch-points, that I think show the power of giving control to the customer. The first of these is the Honda R advertising campaign (link), in which the Honda Civic is presented in two ways at the same time. One, as a supportive family car, and the other as a speed based adrenalin experience. You switch between the two, as you watch the video, using the R key on your keyboard. It sounds innocent enough, but the careful crafting of the experience through the interaction with two stories is just incredibly engaging. Give it a try.

Honda type R


The second of these is one of a series of things that several newspapers have been presenting recently – merged historical and modern images. This one (link) is from the Guardian, and merges images of Berlin – during and after the Berlin wall. You can click on the image, or click and drag to give different transitions. Again, the effect is fascinating, and the interaction draws you to experiment and move back and fore. The experience is just immersive.

People in West Berlin look at an early version of the Berlin Wall


Common to them both is the realization that giving control to the customer and allowing the customer to explore is much more compelling than just broadcasting a message. Not only this, it is quite easy to provide playfulness like this. There are not a lot of options available, its pretty much the choice of one view or the other, but even so, its compelling and immersive. And this is due to the interactions and the transitions, as much as the content itself. In other words, simple interactions can offer great experiences. This has got me thinking of a huge number of applications for the services I work with. I hope they inspire you equally as much.

Ryanair recently announced a 32% jump in profits and their quiet CEO puts this down to a changed image and that they have stopped ’unnecessarily pissing people off’, according to boss O’Leary.

Ryanair being nice

The Guardian newspaper (link) describes this nicely, including presenting a few great quotes from the master himself, Michael O’Leary.

“The underlying trend is enormously positive. Since we changed the strategy, being fundamentally nicer to our customers, the business has boomed,”

This is supported by a reduction in the number of complaints by 40%, and a growth in passengers of 2 million. This is enough of an incentive for Ryanair to order new aircraft and have an optimistic view of the world.

“As a result of this being nice to the customers, bookings and traffic are rising, and we’ve gone out and ordered another 200 aircraft in the last six months so we can double in size”

So, next time you have a discussion in your project group about the economic benefits of offering customer friendly solutions, just quote Ryanair:

“What we have been doing is significantly improving the customer service and it is working like a dream.”


But, remember to quote Ryanair anno 2014, and not the earlier incarnation. You might end up with this:

“You’re not getting a refund so fuck off. We don’t want to hear your sob stories. What part of ‘no refund’ don’t you understand?”

I haven’t flown with the “new Ryanair”, and still have the earlier of quotes in my head and a deep-seated reluctance to go back to them. However, hats off to them for turning around. Changing an organisation from ignoring customers to at least considering customers within a two year period is quite some achievement. It might even be a great case study of organisational change.

Think like a patient, act like a tax-payer: This was one of the more interesting take-aways from Simon Stevens’ recent speech about the new focus of the National Health Service in the UK.

Think like a patient

Although the sentence might be seen as a bit of cheap spin, I think that if most health services asked themselves if they think like a patient, then, with hand on heart, they would probably say no. My experience from working with health services in Scandinavia is that they strongly believe that the health service was established to serve the patient. However, they stopped thinking like a patient a long time ago. Something happened in the 80’s and 90’s that pushed them to think like efficient industrial organizations, and to do that, they turned their back on the patient (and also on what a service is all about). There was a belief that by becoming efficient organizations, that they would naturally serve patients in a better way, and that the patient benefits would be a logical consequence of their analytical thinking. The thought was very much upon  patients, who were predictable and malleable, and therefore did not need to be considered. Gradually, the patient became more and more a distant stakeholder in a hunger to develop systems that looked fantastically good on paper. However, we all know now that you cannot remove the user from the equation, and there is a need to bring the patient back, at both the macro level and the micro level.

So, how do you think like a patient and act like a tax-payer? Add Service Design. The reason for this is that I think Service Design is really good at thinking like a patient (and to a large extent has a fairly good understanding of business economics). However, I think that the natural tendency of a service designer is to think like a patient (or user, or customer – dependent upon situation). That is one of the great strengths of Service Design. However, I do believe that it needs a counter balance. In many ways, the counter-balance already lies in the projects, due to it being built into the culture of most health organizations for the past 30 years. Time and time again I meet a culture in service providers which is focused upon themselves, how they do things and how they would like customers to fit into this self-view. Instead of seeing this as being something outdated, I think that it can offer this counterbalance to the Service Design view. So, maybe the answer to thinking like a patient and acting like a tax-payer is to just add Service Design? Experience from various projects seems to point to the same conclusion. It’s a small addition, but a very valuable one.

I have always been a bit sceptical to the idea of demographic segments, although I guess broadly there are age cohorts that have similar needs. However, I think if you rather look at groups with similar needs, without specifically focusing upon age, then you are more likely to develop the right services and experiences.

I therefore read one of the useful trend-briefings yesterday with great pleasure. It not only says things clearly and succinctly, it also gives a few examples of how you can design for a non-age demographic. One of the key paragraphs I think is one that explains how status symbols are not connected to money anymore, but rather to experiential value.

New demographic


The above text from the briefing (link) says it nicely, and there are some good statistics to support this. For example:

While 48% of those who had used ‘neo-sharing’ collaborative consumption platforms (such as Airbnb, Zipcar and Kickstarter) were aged 18-34, 33% were aged 35-54 and 19% were aged over 55.


I still think its true that the younger demographics are willing to experiment and are quicker to pick up on radically new things, but I also think that there are a lot of new services that are not radically new, and appeal across all demographics.

So, next time you are discussing with a client about target segments, get them to read the trend-briefing, and show that the age demographic should not necessarily govern the way they view the world.

I think the cool brands initial is very interesting, particularly the way they decide upon the winning 20. The results for 2014 have just come out, and surprisingly (or not surprisingly depending upon how you view them these days) Apple came out on top. This is before the new phone, watch, health system, payments solution etc that they just launched.


Have a look at the list here (link) and have a think about how many service providers there are there (nice to see Spotify there). Have a think also about the ones that are not there, (Starbucks is notably absent for example).


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