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Today’s Note: Designing a Customer Experience

March 15, 2012

We often talk about design being important to commercial success: design in products, in software, in engineering and infrastructure, among others. Increasingly, we recognize that good design begets good results. The subject of today’s Note is “Our Economy Is Mostly Services. But How Do You Design Great Service Experiences?” in the Fast Company Design site. The post’s abstract tells us what the article is about: “When overhauling a client’s relationship with its customers, Continuum’s Craig LaRosa adheres to a few core principles, from soliciting widespread input to always designing with future flexibility in mind.” [all italics added by me, and denote quotes from the post]

This very sharp article, then, explores the task of designing a customer experience. I have to admit, this is something I have rarely considered. Anyone who has ever been to a Disney property knows they do it well, but it may seem more art than science. LaRosa’s opening paragraph explains why this topic is worth spending more time on.

Every time you ship a package, withdraw cash from the ATM, or call your health insurance provider, you’re experiencing a service system. We’re a service-focused economy: In 2010, Americans spent more than $7 trillion on services–amounting to 67% of total consumer spending. Service design–choreographing the dynamic interactions between companies and people–cannot only transform a company’s image; it can improve people’s lives. But successful service design is complex and complicated, and many companies get it wrong. At Continuum, we have four rules for designing services with purpose.

Four simple rules, and we’re done? Well, not quite, but the rules are to the point. They can be summarized as (my paraphrasing)

1. Make sure your customer experience builds in the management of expectations

2. Involve all the relevant parts of the organization (and don’t miss any)

3. Build in flexibility to deal with unexpected needs

4. Be practical and realistic

LaRosa provides an interesting example of Number 3, designing for flexibility: “We recently worked with a global medical diagnostic and testing service company to design patient rooms. To meet their need for flexibility, we created movable fixtures that can be adjusted or removed within hours and a customized wall system that can be rearranged overnight to accommodate unknown future services.”

This article is both insightful and actionable. It’s advice isn’t fluffy and vague; rather, it suggests four specific activities that any organization can implement when designing a customer service process. I highly recommend this article.

The author, Graig LaRosa, is described by this biography:

As a principal at Continuum, Craig ( works with a wide range of industries from national retailers and restaurant chains to healthcare and financial services. He understands how to translate the emotional needs of the user and the functional needs of the brand into one holistic, ownable experience that connects organizations and the people who rely on them. Craig has led programs for a multitude of services: designing a consultative retail service and space for the Canadian diamond chain, Spence Diamonds; reinventing Captain D’s, a struggling Midwest seafood chain, with a successful new restaurant experience; creating a streamlined experience that works best for both patients and health-care providers for Quest Diagnostics.


From → Business, Innovation

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