As it is the season to give, and most notably the season to give things, I was surprised to see the number and range of experiences as gifts available on the market this year. I have seen them before as up-and-coming gifts, but this year there seem to be more of them, and greater interest. In one of the shops I visited (a bookshop), I overheard two conversations where family members were discussing which experiences to give as gifts this Christmas.
This shouldn’t come as any surprise. There has long been a trend of packaging services, and it could be described as a natural consequence of the experience economy. However, the strength of the growth is surprising, and the range of packages available is impressive.
One of the largest organizations is the smartbox organisation (link) which has branches all over the world. I think it is interesting that they use the term box as a key part of their experience, making the experience tangible.
One of the Danish providers is Bellevue Box (link). They are a young company with fast growth, and have been classed as a Gazelle fast track company in Denmark.
This package markets itself with a richer experience as a focus, using the Danish term for experience (oplevelse) and a less utilitarian packaging design. In terms of expectation management, the Danish solution provides an expectation of a richer experience.
I think these experience gifts are an interesting reflection on the move from products to services in society, and their growth shows that our culture is perhaps moving away from physical gifts towards tokens for experiences. It might be a logical intersection of the gift voucher meets the experience economy, or something more basic at work. I think the latter, since it could be seen as the ultimate expression of “its the thought that counts”, since it is the thought that is packaged and given, rather than a voucher as a proxy for a physical gift.
I think that the interesting things about packaging all of these experiences is that there are multiple actor collaborations that need to be in place to make a package work. Something I am curious about, is how far along the customer journey the package suppliers are involved. Do they request feedback regarding the final experience, or are they just interested in the point of sale? To find out, I think I will have to wait and see if anybody gifts me an experience this Christmas (hint hint).
I came across this really nice explanation of infographics over on Core 77 recently and wanted to share it. In Service Design, the importance of visualization cannot be underestimated, and this short animation gets the point across really well.
Quite a lot of people have liked the touch-point cards and have been spreading the word about how useful they are in service innovation projects. I have received several emails requesting sets, but have been unable to deliver. The first two print runs of the cards went very quickly. Now, I’m pleased to say that we have just received a third set of cards.
The third set includes some new cards and now all cards are together. For version two, we added new cards, but had to take a few old ones out out to make space for the new ones in the existing box. We have now increased the size of the box to make them all fit in. This makes version three the most up-to-date, including all cards produced so far. To really confuse everyone, there is no visible sign of version numbers on the cards or the boxes. But, they are still free, and a gift from the wonderfully kind Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO). If you have version two, you probably won’t notice the difference.
If you would like a set, please send me a mail at simon (dot) clatworthy (at) aho (dot) no, including a full post address, and we will send them off to you. I ask one favour in return: give me some feedback regarding your reflections on their use. The development of the cards was (and still is) a part of research work, and I am trying to understand how they are used, what works and does not work etc. I am really interested to find out what people think of them. In particular, if people experience that they can constrain idea generation. This is something that people mention as a danger, but not one that I have experienced myself. The argument is that by showing a finite group of touch-points, that new touch-points will not be considered. It makes sense, but I keep finding that innovation in services occurs not so much from the invention of totally new touch-points, but from the use of existing touch-points in new contexts (or the coordination of touch-points). For example online share trading revolutionized ownership of stocks, but that came from using an existing touch-point (internet) in a way that was new to the service (trading of stocks). Of course, if you are Apple, then inventing new touch-points is part of your business model, and the cards would only have limited use. For most service providers, existing platforms are more than enough.
If you are totally confused about what I am talking about, and have missed out on the touch-point interest, then take a look at this article (link) in the International Journal of Design. It explains their development and use, in a researchy language. In terms of a short sharp business language – they just work.
I have received a lot of positive feedback recently about the post describing the experience centric organization (here and here). Some of the companies I am working with are now exploring what it means to be an experience centric organization, and what it means for project teams.
Since Steve Jobs has been on my mind a lot recently, I have been going through some very old YouTube videos of him describing his vision for Apple in 1997, because I think my idea of experience centricity (as something different, but related, to customer centricity) appeared about this time. I remember reading a quote from the Harvard Business Review from that time saying that:
As products become more and more alike technologically, the experience a product gives will become crucial in peoples choices
Well, I came across this video on YouTube, where Steve Jobs answers a pretty scathing question from the audience in a very good way.
He explains the way he wants Apple to develop products and how this means balancing multiple aspects around the customer experience. At about 1:52, he says:
You have got to start with the customer experience, and then work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology, and figure out where you are going to sell it
So, I guess its fitting to say that way back in 1997, Steve Jobs described the experience-centric organization. He didn’t say it exactly in that way, but I think its a fitting tribute to the man to say that already 15 years ago (almost), he had the vision of an experience-centric organization. The surprising thing, is that very very few organizations have managed to follow him there. Now, I wonder why that is? Its obviously a source of competitive advantage, but for some reason, organizations just cannot manage to get there.
I came across this website (link) recently, and to me as a service designer, it has an instant appeal. It just offers one product as best in category, and thats it.
But, somewhere, is a nagging feeling that it is just too simple, and that things can’t be that easy. I don’t know if you share this feeling, but I think that as a concept, offering no choice is perceived as a fantastic thing. “Oh, finally, not having to spend ages researching a product” (and studies show that people spend quite a lot of time on the net looking for recommendations before purchasing). However, I think that they are confusing this initial positive reaction to the offering with the experience of choosing something through the site. When it comes to the experience, I believe that such extreme simplicity is a negatively perceived thing in todays society. Why?
When you refer to research on choice, there are two biases that often are mentioned. The first is a bias to go for the default option – following the herd. In that way, just buy this one, has everything in its favour. The second bias is that of relating a choice to something cheaper, to feel that you have bought quality over price. The site seems to score quite well there too, since it actually offers three options when you click on a category – a cheap one, an expensive one and one in the middle. Research says that people will like this. So, in many ways, they have done everything right. They have picked up on the fact that we negatively respond to too many choices, they use clever algorithms to pick the most popular choice and they bracket the options, to make you feel that you have chosen the right price-point.
So, why do I still feel that its just too easy? My background as a service designer should applaud this, and in many ways, I think this is a really cool piece of service design. I just think that they have made the offering too easy and have missed out on one of the key elements of the experience society – our innate need to feel individual and unique. Just like in the 1950′s, cake mixes were too simple, and manufacturers had to make them a bit more complex (by getting people to add eggs and therefore let them feel they were adding part of themselves to the mix), I think they might need to pamper to the need people have to feel as individuals. So perhaps, this offering presents the idea that you as a customer have a simple need, and therefore are yourself somehow simple. My view is that customers like to feel like they are treated as individuals (as in the Monty Python sketch – you are all individuals – we are all individuals – Im not), even though they might in the end follow the majority of people. We spend a lot of time constructing our individual identities, and this site kinda says indirectly that I am not in any way special.
What would I do about it? Well, I think that the offering is basically good – only one thing to relate to. However, I think I would change it slightly to be only one option based upon my individual needs. In other words, offer a very short process that allows people to quickly specify their needs, and then offer them three options, the best, and two bracketed alternatives. If they did this, then you would feel individual, special, pampered to, and that you really have simply found the best.
I might be over complicating this, and I am sure there are plenty of people who just want one choice. I just think it could be even better by offering some simple questions at first, to give some tailoring. That is after all, what massive data sets can help with. What do you think?
This is the second of two posts about the experience-centric organisation. In the previous post I introduced it, and in this one I will explain a little about what it means to become experience-centric.
To design for experiences requires several things. More and more, I see that if you want to have experiences as your competitive advantage, then you have to transform your organisation into an experience-centric organisation to be able to achieve it. I think that we are moving into a decade of experience-centric development. This will have wide-reaching consequences for organisations, most of which we do not understand at the moment.
The difficult thing about designing for experiences in services is that it requires a tight integration across traditional organisational silos, and requires a different way of thinking at all levels of the organisation. In the following diagram, I have divided the experience-centric organisation into three interlinked elements, as summarised below.
The Enterprise level includes all aspects of the enterprise, including organisational structure, culture, reward systems, brand, etc. It requires an alignment around the experience as being crucial for success. The New service development level ensures that new developments are not only experience-centric, but also relevant to the company brand (so, yes, that has to be sorted too). Finally, it all comes together at delivery. Service delivery is possibly one of the most difficult parts of the system to get right. If that is not right, then everything else will be let down.
During a workshop with my colleague, Ted Mathews, we discussed how we can visualise the interrelationships between these there elements, in which the customer experience is clearly shown as something that is dependent upon delivery. Ted came up with this diagram, that to my mind works as a visualisation of the interrelation of all three elements.
The enterprise as a hand requires training and coordination before any experience can be provided at all. The pen as development is the means of delivery, and again, has to fit the hand (enterprise). However, it can have multiple designs, and best fit is key here. The point of delivery is influenced by all other elements, and to leave a lasting experience, it has to have a good interface with the customer and with the pen and hand. What I like about it is that the delivery of the experience is so fragile and a culmination of a huge enterprise and development activity. I’m still getting used to this metaphor and I’m not a 100% sure it works. What do you think?
This is the first of two posts that discuss the experience economy under the terms experience-centric organisation. In the second one, I will write a bit about what the experience centric organisation means, but in this one, I want to introduce the term and where it came from (at least, in my mind).
During the past few months I have been reflecting over the interests that companies have for Service Design, and particularly what it is they value from their use of designers. This is based on work I have been doing together with Telenor (a global telco, based in Norway), Gjensidige (a Nordic insurance company), Accenture (innovation delivered) and Norsk Tipping (the Norwegian lottery organisation). In addition, this is coloured by various discussions with other companies, researchers and colleagues.
My conclusion, is that we are well into the experience economy, as described by Pine and Gilmore in their book at the turn of the century. I’m not sure why companies have been so slow to react to this, maybe there is just a lag its identification until companies have it on their radar as a mainstream imperative. But it seems that many companies are now working (struggling), big time, to improve customer experiences. As anyone knows, who has tried this, this does not mean using the word experience on an advertising poster and leaving it there (although advertising seems to increasingly add the word experience to everything these days – a holiday experience, a taste experience, a driving experience etc).
If the 80′s was about technology (the birth of the pc, Moores law, etc), the 90′s about business processes (incl logistics) and the 00′s about marketing and brand (the nike swoosh), then I believe the the next decade will be about experiences. It will be about experience-centric organisations becoming dominant, differentiating themselves from their competitors in a very obvious way. Old news you might say, and I agree with you. However, this time its not designers talking about it, or the odd marketing expert. It seems that organisations themselves are coming to this conclusion, and that is what will make it happen. And it will happen at an accelerating pace. We will see a decade in which design for experiences becomes central. The same will happen to services as has happened to products. Design will be a differentiating factor, and those that choose to use it best (and first) will gain most. In the product world, we now expect products to be ‘designed’ and we look for this. The same was not true in the 80′s. Design exploded and became a product imperative in the past 15 years. Services will go through the same transition. Services will follow suit, but in a service -based way.
Look out for the experience-centric organisation, because they are already on their way. Is your company one of them, or is it about to receive a shock?
Todays announcement of a strategic alliance between Nokia and Microsoft has prompted me to write something here, that I started thinking about a year (or so) ago, or even several years ago. Its about whether Nokia ever really understood design and the customer experience.
Many, many years ago, in 1998, Nokia launched the 8810. It was a phone that differentiated it from its main competitor, Ericsson, through design and experience. This was the perfect example of a product fitting into the experience economy, as described by Pine and Gilmore, at about the same time. No, the Nokia 8810 didnt have a good battery life compared to Ericsson. No, the Nokia didn’t have a good antenna and reception was poor. But, the Nokia 8810 had a design, experience and brand position that couldn’t fail. It was desirable, in the same way that the iPhone was desirable. Nokia had managed to marry self-identity, product design, interaction design and brand postion together into a fantastic whole. The phone was followed up by the “matrix” phone, and the rest is history. The graph below shows the effect on their relative stock market prices, and Nokia have lived off this ever since. In retrospect, I don’t think Nokia really understood what they had done, and they didn’t get time to reflect about it either – the dot com period exploded and they were sucked into the future, rather than continuing to invent it themselves.
Several years ago I was in Finland, just a few months after the first iPhone was launched, talking to several Nokia designers. It was very clear that these designers did not see the innovation that Apple had delivered in the iphone, and felt strongly that Nokia would not be challenged by this “temporary and ultimately failed” incursion into mobile phones by Apple. This shocked me at the time, and made me realise that Nokia-think had even pervaded the design department who should have seen the iphones desirability. This made me realise that although Nokia was often described as a design-focussed company, the reality was different. I dug a little deeper and found that product development at Nokia was pretty much out of date with contemporary strategic-design thinking. There was a great division between hardware design, and software design. For the 8810, this didn’t matter too much. The phone had limited functionality, and the software platform they had developed gave them a great interface that lasted over several years. They had made a really user-friendly platform, that could remain consistent over several generations of phones. And this made people trade from Nokia to Nokia, just to keep the platform and the user friendliness. However, as functionality started to change very quickly, this inability to design the holistic experience by integrating hardware and software, turned out to be their achilles heel.
Last year, Nokia launched the Nokia N8. This was Nokias stop-gap attempt to counter the runaway success of the iPhone. But, I was amazed to see how Nokia framed the N8. It was like a flashback to 1997, but the tables were turned. Suddenly, Nokia were advertising the phone on its functionality – megapixels and HD video rather than the experience this gives the customer. They had become Ericsson anno. 1997.
The experience was hardly mentioned in the adverts. The way the phone supported your personal identity, individuality and expression were secondary. This saddened me greatly, because it seemed very obvious that Nokia had never really understood design. They had had a superficial understanding of design as being the physical package rather than the whole, and it made the famous quote by Steve Jobs stand out in stark contrast:
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like – Design is how it works.” Steve Jobs
So, I have begun to question whether Nokia really ever understood design. I think they got lucky in 1997. The market somehow made them feel that they were focussed upon design, whilst internally they were building an organisation that viewed design superficially. They separated software and hardware design and made good design almost impossible. As time went on, this separation became even more apparent through the adoption of symbian. The market wanted holistic experiences and Nokia was digging itself into an organisational structure that made them unable to deliver.
So, what of the recent announcement of a collaboration between Nokia and Microsoft? If you look at the trajectory described above, then it fits in very well. Nokia is still looking to separate software and hardware in terms of design. Responsibility for the customer experience will be where? The holistic concept that integrates hardware, software and service will be where? Desirability will come from where? I just cannot see how this can be anything other than a retrograde step in the long-term. However, I can understand that this makes sense in the short-term. Nokia gets an operative system that works and gets a short cut to a good user experience. However, I think that down the line, Nokia will find that they have now swapped places with their arch rival, Ericsson, in 1997. They are now the company that talks functions and not experiences. As Nokia already know, but perhaps have not understood, Desirability trumps functionality each and every time. This leaves them very open to competition from others that understand desirability. And as we know, there are a couple of those around.
I have moved to wonderful Copenhagen for a year, to finish off the AT-ONE project and complete my PhD. As an immigrant, I have had to sign up for all kinds of different things; doctors, social security number, insurance etc. This is giving me quite an insight into a lot of services over here. Today, one particular one has enraged me, and motivated me to rant here. In principle, it sounds good, its called NEM-ID which translates into “Simple ID”. Several major service providers have collaborated to develop a simple sign in for all kinds of services. However, it is a massive fail when you try to use it, and they have managed to make something that is basically a good and simple idea into something quite complicated. The interesting thing is that every element of the solution is just off being acceptaible. Together, the additionality of these elements makes it a hopelessly frustrating service as a whole.
Here are a few of its problems:
1. Painfully long wait for log-in info. I have had to wait two weeks to get the log-in information in the post. In that time I haven’t been able to pay any bills, access my netbank or public services.
2. Expectation management fail: Huge gap between promise and delivery. Promise = simple, shared solution that gives secure access to commercial and public services. Delivery – on first access, a big message saying that it doesn’t give access to most services without an additional digital signature (but doesnt tell you what this means).
3. Lack of first time information. When you get the pretty introduction letter, with user ID there is no reference anywhere on the letter about how you access “Nem-ID”. There is no URL on any of the documents or contracts or passwords. They obviously want you to guess it. My best guess was NemID.dk , but that takes you to a private company. Surprise – its nemid.nu which looks suspiciously like a phishing site. Surely a nationally shared secure access site can have a .dk address to give it credibility.
4. Weak first-time password solution. The first time you log in you have to use a temporary password, that promptly expires. If you get an error message, as I did, you are lost, because the password has expired. This results in an extra one week wait to get a new temporary password in the post.
5. Poor customer service solution. Send an email request to customer service, and after a wait of about an hour you receive a reply that is so ambiguously designed that you are unsure if its just a copy of your request, or whether there is an answer hidden in it somewhere. All it needs is a line saying” you sent us a request, this is just a copy of what you sent, we will reply in x hours/days”. No, none of that and there is no unique id for the mail, nor any kind words promising a reply within a specific period. Come on, this is like going back to error messages in windows 95, and further destroys any remaining trust you have in the system.
Together, these small things have managed to totally erode any benefits I might have from the simple ID solution. From high expectations (one sign on called Simple ID) I have ended up with serious trust problems. I don’t trust the system at all, and thats not a good start for any national secure system. Can somebody please send the people at DanID on an interaction design and a service design course.
It’s a long time since we last posted on the site, and thats because we have been very busy. We have just got back from the ServDes conference in snowy Linköping. It was a great conference, and the book (This is Service Design Thinking) was launched with two chapters from the AT-ONE project. Not only that, Simon presented the Touch-point paper and the cards at the conference and received good a good response. We have also been working with Norwegian Telco Telenor and service designers Zoot using AT-ONE method to great success. The final presentation from this is right around the corner. In addition to this, the AT-ONE method was used for a large healthcare project together with Accenture, again to great success. In between, Simon sneaked off to Finland to teach some service design and help the process of moving from brand to experience. The AT-ONE handbook is also nearing completion. The five letters are described, with all of the tools and the intro and conclusion are almost there. Should be putting it up online early in 2011.
When we get time, we will put up blog entries for each of these.