Posted by Kerry Bodine on May 24, 2011
In Seth Godin’s recent post, "Who’s responsible for service design?" he points out several service issues with questions like, “How many people should be answering the phone at Zappos.com on a Saturday? What’s Southwest Airlines' policy regarding hotel stays and cancelled flights? Should the knobs on the shower at the hotel go side by side or one above the other?” He then goes on to say, “Too often, we blame bad service on the people who actually deliver the service. Sometimes (often) it’s not their fault.”
I’m totally with him up to that point.
But then he goes on to blame two sets of people for service delivery issues: overpaid executives and service designers. Yes, executives set the direction for customer experience. And yes, there is a growing cadre of service designers in service design firms and in-house design teams. But I’d argue that these professionals are responsible for just a tiny fraction of the service experiences that exist today. Unfortunately, most companies just aren’t aware of the field of service design or the value it brings, so they haven't hired service designers to assist with customer experience efforts.
In addition, I believe it’s the decisions and actions of a company’s employees (all of them, not just “overpaid executives”), external partners (all of them, not just design firms), and customers who collectively determine the quality and characteristics of customer interactions. (See my post on the customer experience ecosystem for more details.)
That said, I think the following tips from Seth target the wrong group of people.
Seth’s tip No. 1: Require service designers to sign their work. Who decided to make it the way it is?
My take: Often the people who “decide to make it the way it is” aren’t designers per se, but employees from legal, finance, operations, human resources, or other internally-facing departments — and chances are close to nil that their daily decisions get documented in any sort of design deliverable that they can then sign.
Seth’s tip No. 2: Run a customer service audit. Walk through the building or the software or the phone tree with all the designers in the room and call out what’s not right.
My take: A great idea, but unless Seth is using the term “designers” in its broadest sense (to indicate that we’re all designers of the world around us), then this advice falls short. I’d suggest including a cross section of behind-the-scenes employees and external partners in this type of activity.
Seth’s tip No. 3: Make it easy for complaints (and compliments) about each decision to reach the designer (and her boss).
My take: In a large organization, it can take months of digging and analysis to determine the root cause of any given service delivery issue. So instead, I’d suggest routing customer feedback to a centralized voice of the customer team that can then prioritize issues and their corresponding resolutions.
What do you think? Who “decides to make it the way it is” at your company?
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