Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sparks fly as we dream big about Service Design

The best thing (for me) about conferences is what happens between the sessions - the conversations we have - the connections we make. We take things from various sessions and from our own experiences, share them with others and make new connections - and new ideas fly off like sparks as our community starts to connect.

A lot of those sparks this week were about Service Design.

As customer management professionals we are obsessed with perfecting the services we support:

  • Getting our people psyched to best represent our company to the customer
  • Getting the right metrics in place to drive the right behaviors,
  • Getting the variation out assuring an experience that is repeatable
  • Getting the cost of servicing down while keeping the quality up.
Sometimes it feels like we are on a treadmill that will never stop - improve, improve, improve. It’s hard, but it’s a good thing. At our best we embody what Deming was talking about with his first of fourteen points -“Create constancy of purpose towards improvement.”

But is that all there is?

From the buzz this week at the Customer 1st Conference - things are changing.

A thread running through many conversations this week has been about Service Design.

Don't just make the service better, remake the service. We are talking scary but cool – the infamous blank slate. And this conference was charged with the possibilities.

Of course improvement and redesign are related, but the change in emphasis is on what we are improving. We are more focused now on improving the customer experience than on the processes we currently use to deliver service. That great customer experience may not require ANY of the processes we currently spend a lot of time and money to make just a little bit better.

And yet, that great experience may be the key to the loyalty we almost mystically seek even while we argue a lot on how it can really be measured.

From Bill Price's opening thoughts on Sunday that maybe "the best service is no service," to a talk I heard yesterday on GSK's approach to semi-automating internal IT service delivery (I highly recommend you download this talk) - to a dinner table conversation last night about what's next in service - the possibilities for re-inventing service seem endless and the results for the customer can be what Tom Peters taught us to call WOW.

As I chatted with others this week on this topic I heard a lot of excitement, but also a bit of fear. Are the teams we lead a part of this brave new world? How do we as leaders get out in front before this wave (whatever it is) overtakes us. And there was a recurrent counterpoint in these discussions - the mantra from Day 1 - "Remember, it's all about the people."

In each of these conversations the paradoxes and the possibilities seemed to resolve towards the end. As with most problems, the answer lay within a clear statement thereof.

We weren't talking about one thing. We were talking about many things, many types of customer experiences - too often all mixed up together and measured with averages we know in our gut don't mean much.

Some experiences are and need to be very people intensive - those Disney magic moments. For others, like the GSK IT Service Catalog we just need to put the power into the customer's hands and let them do the driving.

The key, many said this week, was dreaming big about the customer experience, wondering what it could be...and then asking if you had the best service design to deliver it.

No comments: