Hint: It’s not how to make a proper pumpkin-spiced latte.
Starbucks knows a little something about growing a successful business. As one of the largest purveyors of coffee in the world, Starbucks has grown from a single location to over 24,000 outlets in 70 countries. While Starbucks helped pioneer the artisan coffee movement, what they accomplished cannot be explained solely by the products they sell. In fact, one the most important factors in Starbucks’ success is in their evolving ability to create a superior customer experience.
Here’s the secret that Starbucks knows: superior customer experience doesn’t just happen by chance—it must be deliberately designed, executed, measured, and continuously improved using a process called service design.
Starbucks wasn’t always the juggernaut it is today. For the first 16 years of business, Starbucks was a small regional purveyor of roasted coffee based in downtown Seattle. While the company was founded in 1971, it wasn’t until 1987 when C.E.O. Howard Schultz merged his fledgling “Il Giornale” espresso bars with Starbucks that business started to take off.
What Starbucks got right was putting the customer experience front and center. Not only did they provide a better cup of coffee, but they elevated the entire coffee experience with comforting environments and customer-focused service. They were able to implement a customer service policy that could be replicated thousands of times at cafes around the globe. Starbucks learned the importance of systematic service design.
What is Service Design?
In its simplest form, we can think of service design as the process of creating the best possible experience for your customer as they engage in a transaction with your company. Service design is not just for retailers, it is for all companies. For medical device manufacturers, it is vitally important that you engineer your product’s deployment, integration, and support activities to maximize your customer’s satisfaction.
Too often, medical device manufacturers spend millions developing their medical innovations but don’t give a second thought to a device’s implementation. Your project managers may be left to flounder in the field with inadequate systems as they integrate your products into increasingly complex clinical environments.
Service design is the essential tool that you need to employ to improve your customer’s overall experience, to elevate your company’s industry rankings, and grow repeat business.
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Service Design in the Real World
There is a military saying that project managers often like to quote “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” When a carefully laid plan meets the real world, plans often go awry. But it doesn’t always have to be that way.
Starbucks recognized this early and implemented a concept called “recovery”—when something goes wrong, they make it right. Their responses are pre-planned and pre-authorized; that might mean remaking a faulty drink with no questions asked, providing free coupons, or automatically escalating situations to the manager.
Technical problems and complications are inevitable, especially in clinical environments—service design allows you to identify the friction points in your process and have pre-planned “recovery” fixes ready to roll.
Service Design is a Continuous
You are not going to get it right the first time. In 2007, Starbucks was in the middle of a challenging year. Strong growth left the company facing quality and customer satisfaction problems left and right. Emblematic of the problems was the company’s foray into breakfast sandwiches. Instead of the comforting aroma of coffee, the morning air in a typical Starbucks was thick with the acrid smell of burnt cheese. This created a less than desirable atmosphere that was beginning to chip away at customer satisfaction.
You see, Starbucks lost their way when they decided that customer experience was not their number one priority. Starbucks thought they had customer service all figured out. The company had switched its focus to revenue generation and product diversification rather than quality, and sales began to suffer.
It’s important to understand that service design is not a one time exercise. It needs to be reviewed and updated regularly, systematically, and continuously.
Likewise, as a device manufacturer, you can’t rely on technology alone to carry the company. You need to have a relentless pursuit of excellence in all phases of customer interaction. You have only a handful of chances to positively affect your relationship with your customer once a sale is made. The impression left with your client will actively influence their responses to industry ranking surveys like KLAS or Black Book.
The time is now to start incorporating a service design approach into your product’s life cycle strategy. Compared to the large investments made in your device’s technology, the investment towards orchestrating positive customer interactions will be relatively small. Service design is the low-hanging fruit that can substantially improve the quality of your company’s customer interactions. When utilized properly, service design will help you architect a simple, repeatable process that can be applied simultaneously to multiple customers. Your client satisfaction scores will skyrocket, and your bottom line will improve dramatically.