Service Design and Experience Design: Starbucks Vs Le Pain Quotidien

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by: Idris Mootee

Talking about "service deisgn" or "experience design..forget Disney or Club Med, the Belgian chain Le Pain Quotidien (Our Daily Bread) is one best example of great experience design.

Currently there are stores in California, DC and NYC. Toronto is opening one soon. My friend Scott is obsessed with it. I love the communal table and everything is organic there (I teased the people by asking them all the time if the tea is organic).

 The chain now has more than 80 stores in 12 countries and it is still growing. "17 years ago, Alain Coumont was putting a large communal table in his shop and the people sat down around it.” This is how Harry De Landtsheer recounts the original idea of the founder of Le Pain Quotidien. The baker’s plus restaurant is still there in the Rue Dansaert in Brussels. The basic idea of eating good food together has not changed either. So the combined shops and restaurants have plain furniture made of pine; the metal or glass lamps are simple and the shelving for bread and bakery goods are old style. With classical music in the background, this makes a Starbucks experience like the food court of a second tier shopping mall.

Now that we’re on the topic of "service and experience design". What is service design? Particularly those that is delivered through a digital interface or through a peer-to-peer network. It requires a very different approach from traditional operations management and the economics is very different. Service is becoming a key part of any customer experiences. Many still find the concept a little abstract. Little attention is paid to service innovation or seeing services as structure.

Film director Howard Hawks once said that to make a great movie all you need are three great scenes and no bad scenes. Ok three great scenes, look at your company experience and see if you can identify three great ones. It’s a pretty simple formula for success. My friend Mark Ury will like this analogy. Let’s try to look at service design through the same lens? Imagine each service encounter is composed of touchpoints. (I hate the word touchpoints as it is so overused by old school CRM folk. I hate the word CRM). This is one of the most misleading terms in business and I think the concept itself is flawed. Anyway, let’s use that for now. The question is whether it is enough to create three great touchpoints and no bad touchpoints? Or many great touchpoints make up for one bad touchpoint?

One parallel is music. You bought a CD and the first two songs set the impression of the album. Another parallel from the world of book writing: The first twenty pages are the most important as it is written to attract the readers and they usually consist of the most interesting concept. If you come to a bad chapter, you would then consider whether to read on, despite the opening is so great. In fact, most books fall short of excitement when it comes to the ending.

This corresponds to what James Heskett calls “service bookends” in his book on Service Breakthroughs: The stage for the service experience is set in the first few minutes of the situation. Once the tone has been established, it is difficult to change a customer’s impression of what follows. Last impressions count too. That last few minutes of a service experience may cement the final impression of the event, which influences a customer’s willingness to make a repeat purchase or provide positive “word-of-mouth” selling to a potential customers. These first and last parts of the service encounter are the “service bookends.”

In a Marriott’s customer survey, 4 of the top 5 factors that contribute to customer loyalty occur in the first ten minutes of interaction with their hotel. Coming back to the digital world, the first 5 to10 clicks determine the customer experience, which is going to be hard to change.

London Business School released a paper on Innovation in “Experiential Services“ with some great examples that bridge service design and experience design. The research references about 100 case studies from companies like Royal Caribbean, Virgin Atlantic, American Girl Stores, (picture above) the Apple Retail Stores, Build-A-Bear Workshops, Joie de Vivre Hotels as well as European examples from YO! Sushi, first direct, the Eden project, the Guinness Storehouse (picture below) in Dublin and Die Glaserne Manufaktur (the Transparent Factory) of Volkswagen in Dresden. There are some interesting insights.

Here’s how they explore the metaphor of “the service journey”:
A customer experience is built over an extended period of time, starting before the actual sales experience or transaction to include pre and post purchase experiences; The journey consists of numerous touchpoints between the customer and the organization or the brand; these touchpoints need to be carefully designed and managed; Each touchpoint has the potential for innovation.

The question remains:
You can design a service but you cannot design an experience. Service designers can only stage or create favorable conditions for great customer experiences to happen.  If the customer contributes to the “experience”, how do we co-create these experiences with them?  Stop using the word “service designer”, call them “experience architect” or “experiences co-creator”.

Have a great weekend.

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