Did you enjoy grocery shopping last week? Did that little old lady run you over with her cart? Did they put your eggs at the bottom of the bag?

Service design is the answer to these and other issues people have when shopping, when you’re on hold with your credit cards, or ordering a burger.

How much contact is too much? When and how should a business speak to the customer? Where is information displayed and how?

Service etiquette is evolving and design thinking is at the heart of it. When designing a service you’re essentially creating an experience. People evaluate a business based upon their interpretations and perceptions of their last visit(s). These experiences are internalized—was it a painful wait? Where there many high or low points? Did they leave on a positive note?

Starbucks and Six Flags are leaders in the service design field. Think of your last visit to a Starbucks store. They have a defined entrance and exit, multiple stations or points of contact from the moment you open the door to the moment you leave. You receive your coffee and a free offer at the end of your visit leaving you with good feelings as you exit and return to your day. Starbucks has created a service system based upon duration, sequencing, human rationalizations and rituals. These are key to meeting an individual’s needs for a perceived control of the situation and a positive experience.

*Here are the basics:
  1. Finish Strong.
    Consumers see the beginning and the end of an encounter equally, recalling a few significant moments vividly. The end is most important as it remains in the customer’s memory of the event.
  2. Get the bad experience out of the way early.
    People prefer to have undesirable events come first/second in a sequence of events. This helps avoid dread and allows good events to be savored.
  3. Segment the pleasure, combine the pain.
    People have an Asymmetric reaction to losses and gains, preferring to win a smaller amount twice than a large amount once, but prefer to loose just once. People focus on the peak event, the ending event, and the trend of a sequence.
  4. Build commitment through choice or perceived control.
    People are happier when they believe they have some control over the (uncomfortable) process.
  5. Give people rituals and stick to them.
    Rituals provide comfort, order and meaning in repetitive, familiar activities.

*Chase, R., Dasu, S. 2007. Psychology of the Experience: The Missing Link in Service Science”. Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California