Apple is largely regarded as the best in class for consumer experience. Yet the company fails at providing an Off-Boarding experience to its consumers. In this article I highlight the missed opportunity in Ends! And make some suggestions on how it can be improved.
We retain comfortable or uncomfortable memories of a service or product. If that memory relates to a service or product of your design, you are probably hoping that it will be a positive one. Considering what type of Aftermath Target you want them to feel after leaving, and designing towards that will maximise your chances of being fondly remembered.
Services have 5 basic Closure Experiences types found in services. These characterise the way we experience endings in the customer lifecycle of services.
Now the individual has come to the acknowledgement (First Stage of Role Exit) that they need to change roles, they will start to actively seek alternatives.
A key part of this is measuring the Comparison Level (Thibaut and Kelly, 1959). The Comparison Level is established from previous experiences in the individuals life. These form a baseline that all subsequent experiences are judged either, above (attractive and satisfying) or below (unattractive and dissatisfying) the Comparison Level.
After assessment of these alternatives, the individual will seek reinforcement off significant others. If reinforcement is given, the individual, feeling sense of freedom and confidence, will start to shift their references and engage in role rehearsal of the potential new role.
This diagram reflects what people go through when considering changing their role in a variety of situations, whether this is a job, a relationship, or their gender.
Initial doubts are often ignited from organisational changes, personal burnout, a change in relationships, or the effect of some event. These doubts are then reflected to peers or friends as cuing behaviour. Indicating their doubts in the current role. These cues, being recognised by others, are then reinforced or quelled prompting a re-evaluation of the situation and a halt in the doubting process.
Once the individual has reassurance that their is strong basis in their doubts, they will expand the areas that come under scrutiny. Subsequent events will now be considered negatively as a way of reinforcing their point of view.
This will kick start the Second Stage of Role Exit (See Below) - the search for viable alternatives.
First Stage of Role Exit. Helen Rose Fuchs Ebaugh
The ‘beep’, of acknowledgement from the Music Magpie App, indicates the 10 year depreciation of an £8 CD, that is now worth 64 pence. Such is the life of eroding media like CD’s. I hardly have any places now I can play a CD at home. The stereo from the kitchen is now a networked speaker, and hardly any computers in the house even have a CD slot. The only place equipped for playing a CD is the 10 year old Toyota Corolla, which I am sure will outlive many other media formats.
That said, I am massively appreciative of the task that Music Magpie fulfils. Originally taking only CD’s and DVD, they now take all sorts of digital products, from phones too game consoles.
Their App makes the task of ending your product relationship simple and convenient. A quick scan of the Bar Code of the product and their database informs you of the products monetary value. After log-in, you print out the sheet with your ID number on, pack the items in to a box, and leave it for the courier to pick up.
Your boxed items will then go to the Music Magpie depot and be checked, after which they will pay you for the agreed amount. According to the reviews on the App Store, this is the most frustrating bit, and can take up to 4 weeks. Considering how simple the App, and early service experience is, its sad to think that the later service stages are letting the rest of it down.
However, today my interest lies in improving the Music Magpie Closure Experience. On the whole it is a great service simplifying the end of numerous products. The only criticism I would make is the lack of emotion it has. When we purchase items we assume they are going to achieve something for us - a piece of music that makes us feel a certain way, some clothes we thought would make us look good. These are powerful emotional triggers. But the Music Magpie App skips over the opportunity to reflect on this emotional value. Choosing instead to revert to the simple, cold monetary value of the item. This cheapens the experience of product ownership.
There is a great opportunity here to improve the Closure Experience of these products and bring some user self-reflection about the product to the foreground. This self-reflection is something we miss at the end of many product experiences. Designing the Closure Experience more purposely can help with bringing self-reflection to the foreground. And with it an appreciation of what the product does to the person (ex:I really enjoyed that), and potentially what it means in a wider context like ,energy consumption, product miles or climate change.
I have a couple of proposals that could help here. Firstly inserting a pop-up in the user flow, just after the product is photographed and valued, that eludes to the end of the product experience (below). In the Marie Kondo process (see previous article) this would happen while the person is handling the item at which point they thank the item for ‘A job well done.’ Or in the case of music ‘thanks for bringing me such happiness…insert artist’. This punctuates the end of the product life-cycle.
The second proposal would be pushing some of the nostalgia triggers from the user. A collation of album covers, or automated mix of the music could help here. This could be a link from the message confirming payment to the user. Again the aim would be to induce subtle thoughts of self-reflection at the end of the product experience.
This might seem a bit ‘hippy’ for a hard-nosed start-up like Music Magpie, but it will will really add to the Closure Experience of the product for many people, induce emotions that led to them purchasing the product in the first place and hopefully a moment of self-reflection about wider issues of consumption.
We all too often move through our product experiences too quickly. Forgetting to assess what we have consumed. This undermines the material cost of consumption, and fuels the mindless purchasing culture we have developed. Considering the Closure Experience more in the customer life cycle can help increase emotional value in product experiences. And consequently valuing what went into making those products.
The Marie Kondo technique has been developed by the self-proclaimed declutter over years of obsessing with tidiness and consulting with clients. At the heart of the technique is the emotional engagement with items a person has hoarded over years.
When tidying, she insists on getting all items of the same category together - all clothes, all books, etc. She then asks her clients to pick up each item and question themselves “Does this bring me joy?”. If it doesn’t then it is thanked and disposed of.
Personally, I love the thanking part of this technique. We all too often treat items with little respect. This in turn cheapens the effort of creating an product. Think of the amount of elements that go into an average TV. Its a mind-boggling effort of resources and logistics. Something like that should be treated with respect.
Closure Experiences are often locked to the moment of transaction in some way. A power relationship is established at the moment of transaction. This can be a balanced, fair distribution of power between supplier and consumer. Or can be a tyrannical power relationship, where the consumer is a weakened party by paying before delivery of a service. Or can provide the consumer with influence and authority, when the consumer pays after delivery.
Payment after delivery
This holds the possibility of empowering the customer, as potentially they can negotiate the price on the quality of the service delivered. These transactions often have higher customer contact, potentially a single individual being the executor of the service, such as a waiter. The payment may act almost like a reward, attended by the possibility of a gratuity.
Incidentally, people in these types of jobs have highest job satisfaction, according to a City and Guilds survey hairdressers and plumbers come up tops. This suggests a strong link between job satisfaction and having the transaction at the end of the service delivery. The interpretation of quality or satisfaction with the work becomes a discussion to be resolved with the customer. From this conversation service providers have to accept criticism and ultimately correct anything that goes wrong. The result is pride and belief in their work through constant feedback and improvement.
Payment before delivery
Limits the ability of the customer to negotiate if a service has been poor and therefore leaves little opportunity for the service provider to get feedback and improve. Often seen in entertainment services, travel services and education. The customer is paying for access to the service. The opportunity to have an frank discussion with the service provider is rare in these transactions. The customers would usually have to make effort to have their complaints heard, possibly through some formal systematic way that further distances the service from the customer.
The band Radiohead disrupted the model of payment with their album Rainbows by asking customers to pay what they thought was appropriate. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Rainbows It would have been interesting to extend this to their tour tickets and have the entertainment industry’s transaction model challenged with a more open alternative.
The customer considers the service a basic / hygiene level need and wants to give minimum attention to the transaction. Often used by utility companies and banks, who encourage their customers to pay via direct debit. Due to the low customer engagement with this type of service, providers often become complacent with the customer relationship. This is evident in the press coverage these companies get for their customer service,some of which suggest a shocking level of customer contempt in the industry. This shouldn’t be surprising, given the distance from the customer. The style of transaction is essentially automated and leaves little opportunity to review quality with the customer.
Digitising services has increased the use of synchronous transaction. For example, ‘pay-as-you-go’ services are digitised and use of them are increasing in many sectors. RFID cards are facilitating more synchronous transactions. Its a very transparent form of transaction and one that respects both provider and customer equally; creating a healthy end to the service.
Is a new version of transaction model. Used by many of the free digital services we use, like Facebook, Google and others. Through agreeing to their T&Cs we agree to share our data, behaviour, location for example with them. Although we see many perceived benefits as consumers, there is a great deal we give up in terms of privacy.
The transaction model is a very powerful tool. Often under-considered in terms of how to engage with customers. Many service providers use a model because historically that is what was used. They fail to question if it is the right thing for the future.
Service providers should look to changing their transaction models to improve their Closure Experiences and, in turn, their relationship with their customers.
Duration: 30 mins People: Small groups 2-4
Method: Pick an established service provider or industry. Consider the current transaction model they use. Ex: Restaurant = payment after delivery Coach travel = Payment before delivery. Changing the transaction model will affect the character of the service.
With your group pick a different transaction model and apply it to your chosen service. Discuss the changes this would make.
For example... How would the relationship change between provider and user? Who is in authority? How would the service respond to disruptions? How would this impact the ending of the service?
Capture your thoughts with post-it notes.
Share your findings with the workshop attendees.
LIFE MEANS LIFE
Too many of our life services don’t deliver over the long term. Life is a dynamic and changing experience, yet we seem to mis-sell products and experiences far too often in the service industries. As service providers we need to become better at thinking about the long term customer engagement and embrace the changes that life throws at our customers.
A good example of this has been the changes in the pension industry. 80 years ago employee would expect to work for one employer for life and in return receive a pension. Recent data from the Department from work and Pensions estimates we will work for 11 employers in our life time - 11 different Pension Pots. Findings by Age Concern, have suggested that as many as 1 in 4 pension pots goes missing. This is pretty shocking statistic and shows the difficulties in long term service delivery.
The Long term service scenario exercise helps designers, clients and product owners think about the long term delivery of services. It highlights the changing nature of a users life and the variety of disruptions that needs to be considered.
Workshop: Long term service scenarios
Duration: 30 mins People: Pairs
Method: Get the attendees in to pairs. Distribute pens, paper, post it notes
Attendee 1. Plays the customer. Map out your perfect life from 20 - death with 3 different services (ex: mortgage, pension, phone carrier)
Attendee 2. Plays the reality. Map out all of life challenges and success. Physical Health, metal health, divorce, death of loved ones, interest rates up. Employment rates down. Recessions and depressions. Fires and subsidence, loyalty wins, tax breaks. Life is full of challenges In your pairs, you have 5 minuets to..
Attendee 1. describe your first 10 years.
Attendee 2. Describe 1 life challenge to over come.
Consider the service deliveries and changes Use post it notes to capture the issues and resolutions
Repeat to 80 or death
Share the scenario with the other workshop attendees
The Liverpool Care Pathway is a process of removing drugs and procedures at the end of a patients life. Endorsed for use in hospices and more recently hospitals, it aims to make a dying persons remaining few days a more comfortable and dignified experience.
Initially welcomed by Doctors and nurses, but also family members who wanted to see a loved one without tubes or high on drugs in their final hours.
It has recently been shadowed in controversy as families have complained that they were not consulted, and that in some case it brought on death.
The Liverpool Care Pathway was a courageous initiative to create a more dignified Closure experience for the patient and family members. Although its failure is disappointing, the larger regret would be to not tackle this difficult issue and make the last moments of life more meaningful and dignified for the patient and relatives.
The data that we use as evidence to create personas comes from market research - which often focuses on feedback from current satisfied customers and surveys from potential customers - and so we miss the insights from recently departed customers. In short, personas are always looking forward from the current to the future and by their nature they are overly positive and fanciful.
POST SERVICE PERSONA
Post Service Personas consider the emotions of a user after they leave a service or product relationship. It aims to highlight the reasons for that departure and helps designers to consider and reflect on the closure experience of a service and the subsequent fall out.
With the introduction of the Cee’d car in 2007, Kia introduced the 7 year warranty. This was an industry leading initiative that shattered the previous norm of 3 years from competitors. Not only is the 7 year Kia warranty a confident endorsement of the companies belief in the quality of its manufacturing, testing and design, it also pushes the discussion about end of life of the product and therefore closure experinces.
Manufactures, not only of cars, have traditionally pushed a warranty as an endorsement of quality of building materials and manufacture. Announcing to a consumer that they believe this product will last for an expressed period of time before the product or a component part breaks. The warranty helps in this case as an on-boarding tool. It reassures the consumer that the purchase was a good decision.
What the Kia warranty uniquely achieves is an endorsement for the perceived lifetime of the product. In effect, they are making a statement about the closure experience of the product not just the on-boarding to the product. This provides a healthy platform for discussion when the customer wants to by a new car and the old ones needs recovering, recycling, or re-selling.
Many manufactures don’t have an open communication channel beyond the 3 years - the length of the warranty. This limits their capability at recovering a product and dismantling it for recycling.