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A new article in the Guardian newspaper (link) reports that the Admiral insurance company will use your Facebook and other social media content as a means of adjusting your insurance premium. This is in addition to other data that they have and buy.

I think this is an interesting development in the use of data as a means of understanding the person that they are developing a relationship with, and I hope that it goes further than just pricing. A clever use of social media information, based upon the content of posts, should also be used to develop meaningful relationships between the provider and the customer. Ones that are transparent, and that reflect the DNA of the provider, but in a way that relates to the customer. In this way, the provider will be seen as having the best interests of the customer at heart, and as we know, this increases trust and develops loyalty. insurance

I hope that other companies do this more in the future, but not in an invasive way, rather a subtle way to understand the customer, and to reflect this in their relationship building. Social media not only reflects a person, it also shows who that person wants to be. This can give valuable insights about customers as individuals. Unfortunately, from the history of data use, right back to CRM, it will most likely be used to sell more, rather than build relationships. When we know that the lifetime value of a Starbucks customer can be tens of thousands of dollars, its surprising that sales, rather than relationships are still in focus for many organizations. I recently talked to an organisation that used almost 90% of its marketing to obtain customers and about 10% on retaining customers. When will organizations understand the power of good customer relationships over time and act upon it?

We continue to update the touch-point card set, and a new set is now available (Cards-PRINT). This is a major update of the cards in two ways.

Firstly, we have added emotion cards to the touch-points. This helps you when evaluating existing services or designing new ones, since you can take into account the emotional journey of the customer. This can either be how they experience the journey (from studies) or how you would like them to experience the journey.  We have used them several times, and they do the trick. They get a team to focus upon the customer experience, but not only this, get them to be nuanced about the terms they use. It is much more useful to use a specific emotional term, rather than a vague smiley, in our experience.


Secondly, we have updated the touch-points and added a whole load of technology touch-points, and in addition, many social media touch-points. This beefs up the card pack, so it contains a lot of cards now. It might be getting to the limit of how many cards a pack can have, in terms of practical teamwork.

As always, we are looking for feedback about the cards. This can be comments about how you use the cards, but also what you think of them. If there is a touch-point missing that should be there, then get in touch, and we can add it to the next round.

We are not sending out packs of the cards free of charge any more, but are considering selling the packs in the future.

As part of the ongoing court appeal from Samsung, the Supreme Court of the USA has released supporting documentation (link), much of it about the value  of design. It is worth reading for a couple of reasons.

Firstly because the list of contributors is a whose who of design names including Dieter Rams, Lord Foster, Jasper Morrison etc. Secondly, because there is a useful and fascinating short history of the value of design, going back one hundred years. The history of the coke bottle (new to me) is mentioned, (designed and patented in 1915) in which the design competition was to create a bottle that

“a person can recognize as a Coca-Cola bottle when he feels it in the dark … so shaped that, even if broken, a person could tell at a glance what it was.”

and how in 1949 as study showed that 99% of people could already recognize its shape.

The original coke bottle was influenced by the shape of the cocoa bean pod

The original coke bottle was influenced by the shape of the cocoa bean pod

Further, an interesting piece about Raymond Loewy, who spent only 5 days redesigning a duplicator…

In just five days, Loewy transformed it from a set of exposed and chaotic-looking metals and gears sit- ting on top of four protruding tubes into a streamlined and aesthetically appealing device.

After Loewy’s re-design, sales soared so high that Gestetner was required to build three additional factories to meet the increased demand, and the com- pany kept the same model for 30 years. Raymond Loewy, Industrial Design: Yesterday, To-day and Tomorrow? Address Before the Meeting of the Society and the Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry (Oct. 9, 1980) in J. of the Royal Society of Arts, Mar. 1981, at 200, 203, available at http://tinyurl.com/k82286s.

Loewy later performed the same task for Sears, Roebuck & Co.’s Coldspot refrigerator, turning “an ugly machine with a dust trap under its spindly legs” into a “gleaming unit of functional simplicity.” Modern Living, supra; see U.S. Design Patent No. 112,080 (Nov. 8, 1938). Sales increased “from 15,000 to 275,000 units within five years.” Pulos, supra, at 358. 

Raymond Loewy duplicator

The design led to such demand that Gestetner was required to build three additional factories

What I find fascinating about this, is how history seems to be repeating itself. The value of design is being recognized by many today, and design finally seems to be something that is becoming central to the start-up culture in silicon valley and elsewhere. Why did it take so long and where will it go in the future? I can only see it strengthening and becoming a core competence in all organisations over time. However, history seems to suggest waves of importance, with lulls afterwards. I would love to know why this is, and what are the indicators for the change. If we knew these, we could maybe do something about it.


Tor Andreassen from the Centre for Service Innovation (link) recently sent me a link to the New York Times article, reporting some work from England about how self-service checkouts encourage or even result in stealing. This is work from the UK, that has also been reported during the summer in the British press, which I find quite flawed. Not so much the statistics, but the reasoning behind it. And this got me thinking about the whole self-service checkout experience.

Funnily enough, none of the reporting, (including the orginal article), takes a customer-centric view. They either take a fraud-based view, or a cost-benefit economic view. However, they all say between the lines that the customers do not generally like the new self service checkouts.

There is essentially a core design issue revolving around the theme of a book we are working on – trust based innovation (and the customer experience). I have talked to a lot of people during the past 6 months here in Denmark about the self-service check outs that the supermarkets are using here. They are technologically sophisticated machines with sensitive weighing scales, that identify weight in (the shopping you put in the basket)  and weight out (what you transfer to your shopping bag) and where you scan items yourself. Tesco use them in the UK too,  and they regularly give the well known error message “‘unexpected item in the bagging area”. If there is a mismatch, you get an error message, flashing red light and are supposed to signal help from some kind assistant. Instead the lights generally spotlight innocent people suspected of stealing, for all to see.

Image: Wikipedia
The general feeling I get from what people say and from using them myself is:
  1. Many feel that the reason for installing them is to cut costs, not make things better for them as customers. This lack of benevolence gives them a tendency to have a negative attitude from the start.
  2. The conceptual fit of the machines sucks. The conceptual model the machine uses does not match the mental model shoppers have for a checkout. this makes you have to try to understand what the machine wants you to do, rather than what you think is the natural thing for you to do.
  3. The ease of use of the machines suck. Instructions, dialogue steps, help and error messages do not communicate to the shopper and make things difficult. One mistake aborts the whole process. What does ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’ really say or mean to an everyday shopper? What is the bagging area, where is the bagging area, where does the term come from? Have you ever heard a customer use the term bagging area in natural conversation?
  4. Many feel that the machines and the logic behind them are the essence of distrust. That they express a deep seated mistrust – we dont trust any of you, and that includes you, and have introduced a mistrust machine to try catch you out.
  5. Many have experienced that the machines publicly shame you (an incredibly strong demotivator) and identify you as a thief in front of everyone else, even though you might have just done something the machine doesn’t understand.
  6. In terms of experience, we know that the end of a journey is one of the strongest indicators of the remembered experience. The checkout experience should be an area focused upon, to lift the final points of contact. By making the checkout experience so lousy, the supermarkets are basically negating much of their experiential investments elsewhere in the supermarket (for example the smell of fresh bread etc.
I see that first time users, and particularly elderly people are having more problems than others. I recently went into a small supermarket where all of the 6 self service machines were being reset. There was an error message on each screen, blinking red about a bunch of asparagus. A huge queue of people had formed at the self service because none of the machines were working and an old lady (rich and distinguished type of person, immaculately dressed) in tears of rage and embarrassment (from implied public criminality) was vainly trying to buy her asparagus from the in-store bakery (the only place remaining with an old fashioned cash register). She had tried each and every machine and failed each time, receiving the flashing red light alarm, and was essentially a publicly broken woman. In other words, she tried, and tried very hard. She had used 6 different machines, but ended up being publicly shamed. She felt branded ‘as a thief’ 6 consecutive times during one shopping trip. I’m pretty sure she will avoid that shop in the future. Funnily enough, shortly afterwards, the queue of people at the bakery wanting the old style checkout, grew as one after the other gave up on the self-service ordeal.
I find it thought provoking to have to say that a new technological touch-point is considered an ordeal to use. We are in 2016, and live in a world where even the old lady mentioned above uses a smart phone to access Facebook. Why and how can this have been designed to be an ordeal?
I really believe that its possible to do the same with self service checkouts, but it requires the ability to design for the experience of the context of use, and that will mean changing the machine designs and the fundamental mistrust logic that is there now. It think that is the sticking point – the machines have been designed with a technical and fraud based logic, and not an experience based logic.
From a design for experience point of view, you could see the following quadrants:
SElf service checkouts
Basically, my hypothesis is that there is a new quadrant, that has not been explored yet, which is the combination of an experience focus and a cost reduction focus. The top right quadrant. Exploring this quadrant could be a project for Service Design, together with a supermarket and and technology partner. We could get a long way with experience prototyping, but at some point, I think the machines might need to be redesigned for a test. The work being carried out at AHO by Ted Matthews (link) and Claire Dennington (link) can play an important role in this. For example, the use of ritual has been shown to reduce anxiety and smooth processes. At the same time, social awareness from service providers can be a strong motivator and design inspiration. I think this could be a good entry point, for design-based exploration, and my gut feeling is that the resulting solution might be quite different from the one in the image above. Hopefully, after working with this, all might be well in the bagging area (wherever that is).

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.

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