You produce services to deliver value to customers. Achieving an above and beyond customer experience requires services to work seamlessly, intuitively. In this article, we look at why co-creation workshops are becoming the norm in service design.
Customers expect more from services these days
Companies like Amazon – that are fanatical about customer experience – are demonstrating to the rest of us how to deliver awesomely high standards of service. Given its huge visibility and customer audience, Amazon is setting the benchmark of what good customer experience looks like. If you want to impress customers, bluntly, nothing less than the standards they set will do.
Essential building blocks of effective service experience
We know from benchmark case studies into companies like Amazon that there are some ‘must-haves’ that every customer experience should embrace. They include:
Listen to customers
Customers generally know what they want. It makes sense to ask them and apply the learning lessons carefully. Capturing customer feedback isn’t as simple as it sounds, partly because they don’t always want to invest the time to tell you. Additionally, customers don’t fully understand how your processes work and the technical and data challenges that underpin service delivery. If listening to customers isn’t practical or possible, the second best option is to listen to channel partners, your customer service team, service technicians (if you have them), and front-line staff; people that have to deal with customer questions, issues and complaints every day.
Let customer serve themselves when they want to
Increasingly, customers are happy to serve themselves, and enter their own data, provided you give them the systems and opportunity to do so. That said, there has to be something in it for them; even if it’s only about making it easier to get their products and services faster.
Be there, whenever a customer needs support
It’s really important to make customer services easily accessible. Publishing help resources as videos on YouTube so customer can find them easily online, having pop-up chat windows and installing chat-bots into service portals are just some of the ways companies are innovating to deliver easier access to help.
Be generous when things go wrong and treat it as an opportunity to impress
One characteristic of the quality of customer experience from Amazon only becomes visible when something goes wrong. You can’t help but notice how hard Amazon works to resolve issues when you get the wrong product or it doesn’t do what you want it to do. Amazon customers are always ready with an example of how the firm went the extra mile to resolve their issues when an order disappointed.
When things go wrong, it’s easy for any supplier to think, ‘Why is this my problem?’ — when the blame clearly does not lie at their door. But it’s these moments that present an opportunity for any company to shine as a trusted provider that goes the extra mile. Taking down the defensive position and being open to help customers out will do great things to build trust and grow endorsements.
Become a company that places a value on customer data
We know that Amazon is committed to capturing as much knowledge of its customers as it possibly can. Whether it’s monitoring the questions Alexa gets asked, or recording every click on its website, Amazon is constantly harvesting trillions of data insights every day.
It doesn’t stop there. They have teams of people (and lots of clever artificial intelligence technology) behind the scenes making sense of the data and making thousands of tiny decisions to iterate services, select new products, choose pricing levels of existing products and services (by micro-region), and much more.
Tesco‘s is another example of a company that honors the value of customer insights to drive its business decision making ‘at the speed of light.’ The retailer, best-known as a supermarket chain, now has a vast online retailing business also selling clothes, stationery, holidays, insurance, home technology and telecommunications. At the heart of its operations is the customer loyalty system it runs called Tesco Clubcard. Developed in collaboration with data value experts Dunn Humby, Tesco’s loyalty program allows the company to monitor the in-store and online buying habits of its customers. This insight is used to shape new products and delivery services.
Your business needs to embrace the value of its data by thinking carefully about the insights it can capture from customers as part of service delivery, to then consider how such insights can be applied to improve services. The customer data you can capture, and what you can do with it, should be at the forefront of service design, not an afterthought.
Make all of your processes transparent
Customers want to be kept informed of what’s happening with their order; not to the point that it gets irritating. But there should always be the mechanism and opportunity for a customer to be able to find out what’s happing with their order and when they can expect to receive it. Many B2B service delivery processes today continue to rely on the human-in-the-loop to make them work. This hampers attempts to bring services online and deliver the level of transparency that customer expect. The answer is to place customers at the heart of your data model and service design–and to automate process steps as much as possible.
Digital transformation; embracing digital technologies
Advances in digital technology–examples include Machine-Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI), software robots, 3D printing, the Internet-of-Thinks (IoT), big data, cloud computing, Virtual Reality, sensor devices etc.–are making it possible for businesses to innovate the way they deliver customer services.
Amazon is trialing drone deliveries, BMW is creating cars that alert service teams when they breakdown (so they call you if ever you do), Google is working hard to put robots into homes, while Samsung is pioneering in the area of Smart Refrigerators. All of these companies are working hard to leverage digital technologies to make it easier for companies to place new orders, auto-alert them to service requirements, manage escalations and service anniversaries.
To embrace digital technologies into your services, you need an application platform that allows you to embed ‘whatever style of digital tech engine’ you need–be it an algorithm, data source, DLL, data visualization, geo-map, or something else. That’s where technologies like HyperDrive from Encanvas come into the mix.
About co-creation workshops
How do you bring together all of these learning lessons and exciting new technologies into a design approach that ensures your services will be world-class? The answer is co-creation workshops.
What is a co-creation workshop?
A Co-creation Workshop happens when Service Delivery project leaders and Business Analysts come together with customers and stakeholders in meetings to design new app prototypes (and services). Any systems development happens ‘across-the-desk’ in near-real-time using built-for-purpose design and publishing tools.
Co-creation Workshops rely on use of codeless (No-Code) design, integration and publishing software tools to facilitate open collaboration. Removing use (and the presence) of code and script means that everyone in the workshop can see how the service will work. It removes the barrier between IT and the business.
In our case, at Newton Day we’re big fans of ‘fail-fast’ prototyping. For this reason we use Encanvas. Additionally, Encanvas includes powerful data integration technologies like HyperDrive that mean we’re not constrained by the features of the app platform we’re using.
…working collaboratively with customers and stakeholders in a workshop environment to produce a service design.
Encanvas supports a design approach called Live Wireframing which allows Business Analysts and Consultants in our team to create prototypes of applications and services so we can help our clients to fully appreciate how a solution will work. This allows Users to test and tune apps before they’e deployed. And of course, because there’s no manual coding, there’s no de-bugging or lengthy testing required, so prototypes are completed in rapid time.
Respecting ‘the organization’
It doesn’t really matter which method or technology is used to create new service delivery designs if the foundation principles of service delivery are ignored. Any service design must work within the parameters of the way an organization thinks, acts, and works. In business, no process can ignore the people, ambitions, habits, behaviors and external factors that influence the usefulness of the design. We cover these ‘core pillars’ here:
- Service Quality – Operating within a service quality delivery framework. An enterprise exists for a reason. Processes should be designed to serve the purpose, vision, strategy and action plan of an enterprise.
- Employee Engagement – How you bring value to employees. Sometimes, bosses seem to forget that a lot of goodwill goes into making processes work successfully. Forging engagement and positivity in a workforce requires designers to consider the impact of any changes, and possibilities to motivate desirable behaviors in all stakeholders.
- Service Culture – Appreciating the service culture. Every organization has a unique operating culture determined by the degree of solidarity and sociability that exists. This factor, and the accepted norms of behavior that exist, will influence the way your workforce applies any newly designed process (whether you like it or not).
- Customer Experience – Considering what matters most to customers. Most service designs fail, not through a lack of knowledge about the provider organization, its products or processes, but because too little investment has gone into understanding what customers want.
Give your customers and key stakeholders a voice in the design of your services
Co-creation workshops only work when a fail-fast approach is taken and consideration is given to what customers care about and the ‘core pillars’ I’ve mentioned above. Certainly, good tech tools–that drive progress and results through–are really important too. Perception is king and constantly evaluating how how both your customers and workers perceive service delivery is important for continuous improvement and collaboration.
About the author
CEO Newton Day
Ian Tomlin is a business management consultant, having led a career as a CEO, marketer, tech innovator, and business writer. He founded and is CEO of the marketing and innovation company Newton Day where he helps businesses tell their product stories and make conversation with their customers. His writing includes fourteen titles including the 60-Minute Expert series of ultimate ‘how-to’ guides for practitioners. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.