Design for a better customer service

Despite an earlier belief that I wasted tuition on a Designing for Service class, I am surprised to see myself pointing out notes of great service design.

While standing in the checkout line at Costco with three items, a guy with a wireless scanner stepped over to us and scanned our three items. He told us that we could just show our costco membership card at the cashier without taking anything out of the cart, pay and we’ll be on our way. Someone took the time to figure out how to address the less common use case of a customer buying a few items and make the experience better.

And then today when I wanted to switch my departure airport for Pittsburgh on Southwest, I only had to go to the website and click on View or change your flight. Within minutes, I switched my airport from Oakland to San Jose. No extra fees. No worries. And I had a freedom of choice. Within 5 minutes. I was happy. Someone too thought of what hassles travelers had to go through and designed the service to reduce those hassles.

And yet, there are services (and products) out there that are designed to be deliberately difficult. I always found that instruments were deliberately designed to be difficult because the pleasure is not in the act, but the pleasure comes from the mastery. The same with many games. And walking into a Diesel store. For some, it’s an confusing experience meant to make someone see a salesperson as the knight in shining armor. For others, it’s almost a feeling of exclusion–only a certain demographic would shop there.

3 thoughts on “Design for a better customer service

  1. Seems like you’ve read “Emotional Design”. BTW, great blog. I’m not a stalker, I just found this blog while researching the CMU HCI prog. Keep up the good work.

  2. It’s a book often read in all hci classes! Or at least excerpts. Reveal your identity! In some way, that’s my biggest gripe about blog comments, but that’s ok. Besides, no need to be anonymous. I don’t collect email addresses for malicious purposes and they’re not posted!

  3. This also sounds alot like a book I just read called “Call of the Mall” by Paco Underhill. The line you wrote about Diesel is particularly relevant – Underhill recounts visiting a Diesel store with a teenage shopper and trying to determine which clothes are for men and which are for women. Soon enough, the salesperson swoops in to help. There’s also a line about Tiffany and Co., and how the small windows and imposing facade discourage the casual shopper (of course, the discount jewelry stores are nearby and have a much more open layout).

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