Posts tagged: service design

Managing customer expectations when things go wrong

Posted 23 November 2013 in business, service design | No comments yet

Every couple of months I order a large delivery from the supermarket. I don’t own a car so I find it convenient to get bulky tins, dry foods, cleaning supplies and other bits and bobs delivered in one go. Last Wednesday, for the first time, I received a text message from Woolworths about my upcoming delivery:

The time-slot I’d picked for delivery was 7-10pm and this message left me puzzling about just how long I might be waiting to receive my groceries.

After my delivery had arrived, I sent Woolworths an email about a missing item from my order and I wrote:

Also, thanks for the text message alerting me the delivery might be 120 minutes delayed. The language in the text message was a little confusing (“Hello, this is a courtesy message to advise that your Woolworths delivery driver will be delayed. Your delivery will be running up to 120 mins late”) because my delivery window was from 7pm-10pm which made me wonder if I might be waiting up til midnight to receive the delivery but happily it arrived at 10.01pm :)

Their response came back:

We also apologise for the late delivery and confusion in our notification. As you may now be aware, the lateness is calculated from your estimated delivery time, so in this instance you fortunately must have been scheduled for an 8pm delivery initially.

It was helpful to hear this, however Woolworths don’t communicate an “estimated delivery time” for an order to their customers.

My suggestions to Woolworths for communicating delivery delays via text message:

  • If the delivery will still fall within the chosen time-slot, don’t worry about notifying customers.
  • If the delivery will fall outside of the chosen time-slot, specify the latest time the delivery will arrive rather than the duration of the delay.
  • Or if Woolworths like their current process, specify what had been the estimated delivery time and what will now be the latest time. In my instance: Your delivery was estimated for 8pm but will now be 10pm.

Overall, a text message about a delay helps to manage a customer’s expectations, however the message must be clear and specific about the worst-case scenario in order to readjust those expectations based on the current circumstances.

Embedding research participants in a scenario

Posted 15 August 2013 in research, service design | No comments yet

A participant and researcher sitting at a desk during user research

The materials in the Social Psychology course I’m currently studying include a video of a conversation with psychologist Elliot Aronson, Professor Emeritus at University of California, Santa Cruz, reflecting on what he learned as a graduate student of social psychologist, Leon Festinger:

“…what I learned from Festinger was how to do it, how to do experiments. It required very special skills and very special training. You had to be a playwright, you had to be a director, you had to be an actor, because you had to sell the procedure, because the laboratory is a very sterile place. A person comes in to be the subject in an experiment, he’s in a sterile environment. What our job was, to embed that person in a scenario where he’s not stepping back and making decisions about ‘what would a person normally do in this situation?’, but where he’s so embedded in the scenario that we constructed that he’s behaving the way he or she would behave in his or her real environment if it were happening, and for that you needed those skills: actor, director, playwright, so you wrote a scenario that was powerful.

The difference between simply sleepwalking through the instructions and doing it in a dramatic way is the difference between the hypothesis coming out and not coming out.”

This description of crafting experiment scenarios rings true in design research as well. When exploring a problem space or testing a concept, a designer’s intention is to understand behaviour rather than just collect checkbox data about attitudes or task completion. Rich research data comes from setting a scene that encourages a person to speak openly and honestly, and where they can demonstrate the types of reactions they would have if the facilitator wasn’t present.

Practice goes in to learning how to ask “Why?” without sounding like a broken record, and listening for cues that suggest the participant has slipped in to saying what they think you want to hear. Some people need reassurance that their personal opinion, whatever it may be, is perfectly valid and valuable. A considered environment, script, and activities, and the ability to riff and deviate where required without forgetting the objectives of the research, will help a participant reach a comfort-level quickly, and before you know it, they’re saying “Wow, that was quick and easy!” at the end of an hour of conversation.

Looking out for hindsight bias

Posted 15 August 2013 in design, research, service design, user experience | No comments yet

An illustration of a meeting where someone is thinking "I could have told them all of this!"

I’m currently diving in to a Social Psychology MOOC course through Coursera which is generating some personal reflection about design research.

One point I’ve been thinking about is hindsight bias, or the I-knew-it-all-along effect, where people, presented with some facts, strongly (and wrongly) feel that they already knew those facts. There have been a variety of studies in to hindsight bias to look at how and when it occurs. An excerpt from (an old version of) David G. Myers Exploring Social Psychology summarises the hindsight bias effect.

How can hindsight bias creep in to UX or service design research?


Living Building Challenge

Posted 29 August 2012 in design | No comments yet

Tonight I went along to a one-hour public talk at UTS by Jason McLennan, founder of the Living Building Challenge (LBC) and CEO of the International Living Future Institute. I won’t attempt to summarise all that he spoke about, however I wanted to share a few examples and points that got me thinking.

Jason spoke about his visit to see a new school building, the Hawaii Preparatory Academy Energy Lab, where on his early arrival a 15 year old school girl took Jason on an unplanned tour. She was able to provide technical explanations for how the building worked, even demonstrating the use of the control panel for the buildings various systems. This story shows a user of a building having a sense of ownership and pride which is rare when you consider the standard relationships between people and their homes, offices, or the services they use.

Another LBC project is the under-construction Bullitt Center in Seattle which is expected to be “the greenest commercial building in the world” and will include a solar array on the roof to generate all of the energy needs for the building. Had they designed the building based on current standards, the solar array would have been enormous (and no-doubt impossible to sit on top of the building based on the diagrams he showed us) however they approached the design by determining how much energy they could generate before defining requirements for occupant behaviour and energy use (check out the Bullitt Center energy diagram to see how little energy they intend to use!). In this project they’ve been clear on which objectives must be met (certification) and which should be challenged (expected energy consumption).

Before Jason took to the stage, we were shown some background about the LBC in this 5 minute video: “The Challenge” teaser. One of the statements in the video that resonated with the design work I’ve been doing was:

Much of the change that we now need to navigate is a process of changing our framing stories. One of the most important and most powerful ways of changing our stories is through demonstrations, showing people what’s possible and that of course is exactly what you’re engaged in in the Living Buildings work.

Jason also spoke of early resistance to the LBC (“we couldn’t do that in [insert city/country/climate]“) and how, with more projects completed or underway, there are now examples that can be pointed at to demonstrate the application for different scales, locations and conditions. This made me wonder about service design: are there enough publicly visible examples showcasing the variety of uses and the flexibility of a service design approach?