Navigating the new world of work

Category: Service Design

Duplicitous Data

This is LinkedIn’s latest crafty attempt at trying to get you to hand over your data. They’re ineloquently asking for it outright, rather than trying to mine it somehow. I suppose that makes sense. So, what’re they doing? By providing your salary amount, they promise to tell you if they think you’re not getting paid enough but you’ll also get free general salary insights for an entire year. Intriguing.

For now, I’m sure they’ll tell me that employers or recruiters aren’t going to be able to see that. In fact it says that at the bottom. And I’m sure eventually, at best, they’d get a band or range, or an anonymous aggregated average. But I can see a time in a not too distant future where recruiters will be able to work out how much they think they ought to be paying you initially based on an average… but potentially then based on what you’re getting paid now and what they think they can get away with paying you.

There’s an obvious problem with this. Taking the above example of a Marketing Manager. The salary range for this could be vast depending on the size of company or the size of budget or the team you’d be managing. I can picture scenarios where people are being told they earn a lot more, or less than others purely because of the nature of the job. It would make a lot more sense for more generic jobs, but they’re not the sort of jobs you usually get here – most of the jobs on LinkedIn are fairly nuanced in terms of role and responsibilities. I suppose LinkedIn could get a little cleverer the more data it collects… And that’s the idea. I’m still not giving them my salary though.

In search of travel experience

When you’re searching for somewhere to go on holiday, do you always know where you’re going? What about the times when you’re looking to do a ‘gap yaar’ and want to wonder around and find yourself…

And sometimes you know exactly where you want to go as it’s been sitting on your bucket list for 15 years waiting to be ticked off. But isn’t there also somewhere in between..?

You can always click ‘give me inspiration’ on Kuoni or click the ‘Sensatori’ collection (whatever that is) on Thomson Holidays. But sometimes you do know, sort of. You know the type of experience you want but don’t necessarily know which part of the world, country or even part of a country you’d need to go to in order to get it.

I was looking for that perfect log cabin experience. You know the one: it’s a wooden building, dead animals on the walls, open fire, snowing outside etc. I thought, which would be the best service to help me find this? Air B&B – that would be the best, surely. Air Bnb is a pretty beautiful site, lots of inspiration for cities to visit, usually Hipster ones of course. It is very pretty.


Explore the world

‘Explore the world’


But it only asks you where you want to go.

What if you don’t know where you want to go? Only the experience you want and the budget you have? If you type in ‘log cabin’ it does come back with some stuff, but only stuff in the US, so unlucky if you fancied anywhere else in the world.


Log Cabins in US

Log Cabins in US


What about Secret Escapes then? I love their mobile app, really pretty with a strong focus on visuals and pretty easy to use if you’re just having a browse (gets more complicated if actually want to book a holiday, of course). I typed in log cabin in the Secret Escapes website, and this is what I got:

Secret Escapes search results

Secret Escapes search results


This is better, more aligned to what i was after i guess… But there’s only two so… If i don’t want Finland or France then that’s about the extent of it. Let’s see if Google can help. I type in ‘log cabin holidays’ and find myself faced with a load of Centre Parcs and Hoseasons options, which, no offence to those who like it, I’m not a particular fan of. I eventually find a site imaginatively called ‘Forest Holidays’ which does offer log cabin holidays, but when I go to search for some, again, it asks me to tell it where I want to be first.

I understand this is to narrow down the types of cabin that will be available when I want, but if I’m experience driven, I’d like to know what’s possible and work out my logistics around that. You can even do a search by ticking ‘underfloor heating’ and ‘outdoor hot tub’ even though many of the types of cabin offer it, you have to sift through them all in order to understand which do and which don’t. Who’s got time for that?

Forest Holidays ask for location

Forest Holidays ask for location


If you just Google ‘log cabin’ you get directed to Wickes or B&Q of course. All of the holiday offerings allow customer to search based on the company criteria and ease of database search. There is definitely an experience lead offering that’s missing here.

Other types of service offer the feeling of buying the experience alone – what about ‘Red Letter days’? It’s all about the experience of what happens to you – you worry about the date and timings later – often the recipient can choose it for themselves at multiple locations. Hospitality companies need to entice customers with the promise of the experience first and worry about the logistics of it later. And this means going further than offering just a poxy gallery and hoping customers have the patience to imagine themselves as part of it.

Marvellous Mere-Exposure

If ever there was an industry that could deliver elaborate, ostentatious experiences and expensive to say the very least – it’s the film industry. Particularly Hollywood of course. I haven’t actually seen it in person, but below is an image taken from the inside of Oxford Circus tube station, currently sporting a 1920s American veneer. It is of course a promotion for the film, The Great Gatsby, which opened last month.  I have seen the film and although it did not quite marry up with what I had in my mind when reading it, I enjoyed it very much.

The Great Gatsby on the floor and walls of Oxford Circus tube station

There is something enchanting about this depiction within the bustling underground. However, I do wonder why they chose to do it there when Gatsby is not set in the city and although it is set in New York state does not include the Subway. Nevertheless, this is a lovely extension of the film in an attempt to immerse passersby in the experience of the film and of the time in which it is set and I happen to think it works quite well. And, it is a primary example of the use of the mere-exposure effect or familiarity principle which I am sure makes for healthy profits.

I have not heard of any similar replicas in New York and yet I suppose that is where this would make the most sense.

All the (retail) world’s a stage!

I tried to use my limited time off as wisely as possible after my Masters finished. I went visiting family, managed to land a job and I even took a trip to Japan for a while to soak up some of the culture. On one of my free days I took a trip down to London with friends and went to the Science Museum. If you haven’t been, it’s a great place to spend a morning. I specifically went to look at the Turing exhibition because I live close to Bletchley Park and thought it was about time I tried to soak up some of the history.  I’d also recommend the Google labs for some of the experiments they’re doing there too.

After having some museum fun and armed with the trust iPhone, we took a trip to Burberry’s new retail store at a grade II listed building, 121 Regent Street, which is now their largest store in the world at a whopping 44,000 square foot. Burberry Prorsum, Burberry London, Burberry Brit, Burberry Childrenswear, accessories, shoes, Burberry fragrances and Burberry Beauty are all available for shoppers to drool over. In addition, it has an out of hours and online collection service, a concierge service, alteration service, guest Wi-Fi, iPads connected to and valet service, proving it’s a store of the 21st Century. It has a fitting grand entrance, similar to all the other luxury brands that line the street. If you want to find innovation in retail, this is where you come.

When you walk into the building you’re presented with a giant retail screen (one of the 100 screens in the shop, and 500 speakers!) showcasing Burberry’s iconic trench coats, in advert style. This is the tallest retail screen in the world at a giant 22ft. It’s surrounded by a giant curved staircase reminiscent of something you might expect on Downton Abbey, yet coloured in a modern, clean, white.

The next thing you notice is probably the classic interior, high ceilings immaculately painted, muted, warm lighting and solid flooring, marble and wood. At the top of staircase there are a large set of mirrors, some of which have abstract videos playing on them, and as you wind around to the left or the right, there’s a very narrow landing leading you past more coats. However there are only a select few mind you, one of each style, which fulfills the minimalist ethos of ‘less is more’.

However, there’s something different about these coats and the screens playing videos that accompany them. They seamlessly switch from multimedia and then to mirrors and back. Although I didn’t try it out myself, apparently the coats around the video mirrors are equipped with RFID tags, which, if you put one on will then tell the mirror opposite to display catwalk video of the coat in action. I’m not sure exactly how this is meant to make one feel… On the catwalk I guess? Might be better if it was more of a mirrored image of you on the catwalk, but that’d take some serious augmented reality engineering to look any good.

If you follow the landing a little further, you can find yet more of this season’s trench coats with small screens beside them. Some of them have little videos that show you the sewing detail up very close, and the next to them another square on a stick… But on these ones there’s a lense. You can then see the detail on the coat for yourself through the lense, both stitching and the material if you so wish.

On the upper levels and even further up the floors between the stands of shoes and dynamic signs, there are large areas of comfort with plush carpets and spongy seats to park yourself while you take in the glamour of the building and its apparel. This promotes a relaxed atmosphere which is not something you would perhaps associate with that particular part of London.

The staff in the building were certainly curious about my picture taking, and I’ve read some less than flattering reviews about them and their service, but they were perfectly polite to me. There are no tills in the shop, instead the staff carry around iPads as POS, where they can show you the entire Burberry catalogue, as well as tell you what’s in stock, and even pay for your clothes right there and then while you lounge about on their large sofas. According to the Burberry,  ’employees will carry iPads with applications on them that will provide access to purchase history and customer preferences to enable a more tailored shopping experience’, which is certainly an appealing prospect.

This is described in the media as ‘the merging of the physical and the digital worlds’. Burberry chief creative officer Christopher Bailey states

In renovating this iconic London building we have worked with some of the UK’s finest craftsmen to restore a wealth of historic features, at the same time as pushing the boundaries of digital technology. The result is a space defined by contrasts: at once imposing and intimate, its juxtaposition of craft and innovation is designed to delight, surprise and entertain.”

Well, it’s certainly a juxtaposition of the classic and the brand spanking new. If you come out of Burberry and go a little southwards past Piccadilly Circus you can find yourself at M&M’s world. It’s a bricks and mortar tribute to the American sugary snack. I’m not going to post many of my images of the shop as really it’s something you ought to see for yourself. Aside from the giant M&M characters, Abbey Road replica and rows of M&Ms pajamas, I did notice the emergence of screens in the shop. The first thing is a kind of M&M’s mood wizard. If you stand in the designated area it knows you’re there and will then begin to analyse you, decide which colour best suits you and then chooses a personality to go along with it.

In another part of the store, shoppers can use another wizard that will help them design their very own bespoke M&Ms selection, with the exact colour range that they want, and then they can watch some M&M elves in the Mix Lab making it for them. Not too sure why you would use it consider they have rows and rows of different colours of M&Ms that you could make a mix yourself. But I guess that’s the novelty of it.

If you then walk towards Green Park, you pass the Audi Digital Car Showroom. In this tiny little spot of Audi real estate, you can look through various colour swatches, grab and iPad and design your very own dream Audi. It’s then projected onto the large screens on the walls and you can get a good feel for it, inside an out. Although this is just the first one, Audi are hoping to roll them out over Europe, in dense city areas where there’s not enough space to put the full range of cars for customers to browse.

I guess most of it is novelty. You’re not likely to go to a Burberry store just so you can have a close up look at how well the stitching on the collar is aligned. But Audi feels somewhat different… It’s less of a novelty and more of a technological development that practically solves a growing problem.

The though behind it is clear –  if you spend a lot more time in the store you’re more likely to create brand affinity and therefore come back. However, the interesting part is how these stores have invoked the brand and its vales in order to create a beautifully crafted unique experience, with a bit of personalisation thrown in for good measure.

Lior Arussy puts it well in his book Customer Experience Strategy:

When customers step into a bricks-and-mortar location, they’re looking for theatre. They want a show. They want direct experience with products and people, experience they can’t get on the phone or on the web. Your front line people are actors in retail. On this retail stage you can present demonstrations, product trials, and celebrations. Product launches become local events. Do you have customers who drop by the store regularly just to play with the products? Embrace them. Turn them into evangelists who can showcase your products to other customers. Make them part of the show.

Of course, this isn’t going to work for all companies in all industries, but the success of these shops is clearly evident – they are in fact iconic places to visit in themselves, and you can definitely feel the evocation of theatre unfolding in front of you.

The Experience Economy

While looking for more things to read, I found a new heap of Customer Experience and strategy related books and have slowly been working through them. A little while ago I finished this book by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore.

The Experience Economy

Published in 1999 It’s one of the earliest books I’ve ever come across that mentions Customer Experience explicitly. I’ve recently read that it was based on an article written the year before and that indeed the term is attributed to them. Almost 15 years later, I still see it as one of the most relevant books I’ve read for our times, particularly in the era of Customer Experience Management. For a business book (and an old one at that), it’s a pretty interesting read.

The basic premise of the book explains how the focus of the consumer economy has shifted. So in the early stages we had the Commodity Business which concerns itself with basic products, sugar, gold, wheat etc. Which quickly changed into the Goods Business which sells differentiated products, as in products that are built of basic building blocks from the commodity business but they’re changed into products that have a Unique Selling Point, which is of course where marketing comes in. They next describe the Service Business which doesn’t concern itself with tangible goods necessarily but with which we’re pretty familiar with considering it makes up over 60% of the British economy (so you’d think we’d be better at it). They then go on to the Experience Business which I would argue we’re only just embarking on. This is the most exciting of the evolutions. An obvious example is perhaps those of theme parks such as Disneyland where the park is designed specifically to create wonder and amazement. Pine and Gilmore state that it’s the job of the business to create ‘memories’ for customers, in other words to architect memorable events for them, resulting in the experience or the ‘memory’ itself becoming the product.

As they Guardian recently reported, even in times of an economic downturn, the spending on luxury and exclusive experiences for the rich still continues to rise exponentially. They go on to report that people, particularly the young, are now beginning to define themselves by what they have done rather than what they own. They state the trend even spreads to China, which is an economy known for it’s obsession with brands and status symbols. I can see the beginnings of this even for those without the six figure salaries. Everyone’s heard of those track days where you can drive an Aston Martin for all of two laps, but what about this:

Zombie Shopping Mall – Complete with Endorsement from Simon Pegg

It’s a kind of Zombie Experience Day where you get to pretend you’re in a Shaun of the Dead movie. Lots of actors are in there loudly moaning and pretending to be after your brains and you go around a deserted shopping centre (a real one!) with a laser gun shooting them all, while they film you and give you the footage as a souvenir. Absolutely genius idea. It reminds me a bit of that scene in Minority Report where people of the future pay to go into a pod and can live out their fantasies, with one guy having constant applause and praise from a circle of people surrounding him, “Oh you’re so great!”.

Further on from this, Pine and Gilmore describe the Transformation Business which includes things like the education industry, where your customer comes out ‘transformed’ as a result of your business. Or even perhaps things like drug rehabilitation? Where customers pay to spend their time somewhere to (hopefully) gain something from the experience. Their main argument is that businesses can now charge for the ‘value’ that they add, and the more they add for the consumer, the more they can charge of course.

This obviously has great resonance for businesses. Even if you sell products, you can still (to some extent) design the experience a customer has with your brand, in terms of customer service and the web site that you have – they all contribute to the experience. Whether you’re an MNC or SME, you have the ability to alter the associations that people have with your business. I do think it’s time for companies to start looking to the future to try to determine how technology can help them add that value through positive, seamless experience and exceeding their customers’ expectations.

Scamming Supermarkets

There is nothing new about misleading supermarket offers, they have been reported on numerous occasions, not to mention most recently in the Guardian. Buy one get one free, or buy three for two, or bulk buy to save pounds. Most famously, our friends Tesco and Ocado, have been upping the price the week before an offer so that they can then legitimately say they’ve brought it down in price, when in fact it’s either normal or still overpriced. Which? research has already highlighted the problem for consumers:

“It’s unacceptable that shoppers are confused into thinking they’re getting a good deal”

Quite right. So. Have they learned any lessons? Many stores claim that the pricing were simply a mistake on their part. Is this true? I doubt it. Most of their labels are deliberately not cross compatible. E.g. one is units and one is kg so you can’t directly compare. That can’t be a mistake too, can it?

To prove they’ve made no effort to change, I have an example of my own. Recently I was in Asda, and I was on the hunt for some Kiwis. I found a pack of four, which is what I wanted, at the ‘bargain’ roll back price of £1.25. BUT. Right next to it. Literally right next to it, I find loose kiwis at 22p each. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that’s a saving of 37p. It might not sound like much, but it adds up.

But what does this mean for consumers? Well, primarily that their trust in the supermarkets is being undermined. Customers are not going to believe they’re being treated fairly, and if one supermarket decides that this isn’t good practice and doesn’t carry on, then they might well be the ones on top. If not just because no one can be bothered to do the maths just to work out if they’re being scammed or not. The other problem is of course the excess in packaging on their scam bulk buys, which annoys everyone and seems unnecessary. Others have outlined the better service and quality of food at other sources such as local grocers and farmers markets where you can get a cheaper (and much fairer deal), but not everyone has access to these – at least not on a regular basis. So when are supermarkets going to step up to the mark and stop scamming their own customers? It also begs the questions are these going to the infiltrate the online supermarkets? Maybe they already have.

What’s in a name Starbys?

This post is a little late in the day since the hype is already over, but I feel like I had to make some sort of comment on it since it is very much at the heart of customer experience. And I hadn’t time to write anything until today.

So Starbucks have decided to try and call you by name and write it on a cup so they can call it out when your skinny mocha frappuccino is done. I say try because they can’t possibly remember all of them.

I remember the first time this happened to me. I was at a Cafe called Gusto, on Coogee Beach in Sydney, Australia. All I wanted was a Green Tea if I remember correctly, and the barista confidently says to me ‘Name…?’. I was half inclined to ask her to repeat herself since I couldn’t understand what on earth she would need that for, until I glanced behind her at the blackboard covered in a Sarah and a Charlotte. So I gave her my name and waited for her to put it next to Sarah and a Green Tea afterwards.

As it happened my housemate ended up waitressing there and she said it made customers happy when they memorised their names and orders so they could make them before they’d even paid for them. Which by all accounts has to be good service. But it’s a very personal service, used be independent coffee shop baristas to make their customers happy. There are many perils with this sort of behaviour – if I were a barista I’m not sure I’d like the pressure. Imagine trying to spell ‘Bartholomew’ without causing offense, or detect the humorous undertones of ‘Gail Force’ and ‘Amanda HugandKiss’. And then of course there’s the problem with all the accents and the dialects. It’s an articulatory minefield. There are lots of comments from coffee shoppers.

“Don’t know why everyone is so bothered by this… it’s standard practice across the pond as well as all over europe. who says you have to give them your real name anyway? besides, it’s fairly unlikely they’ll remember it next time…”

But isn’t that, indeed, the whole point? At least it was in Oz, they were so good at remembering order after order because everyone that turned up was a regular that it actually worked. And gave you a nice warm fuzzy feeling inside.

“What is the big deal?” says someone else. “There’s plenty of other things to moan about.” Yes certainly, but someone else outlines what bothers me the most:

“If a waitress asks my name & chats because she wants to thats lovely. If she does it according to her corporate script I’d rather she didn’t bother.”

You know full well that the contents of their nicely rehearsed message was relayed to them on a script on Monday morning’s meeting, and they don’t give a flying coffee bean what you think of it. They’re doing it ‘cos if the supervisor notices they’re not then they might have to clean the toilets that evening. And that’s not the sort of employee pressure I want to contribute to.

Besides all this, I’m well aware that it works in other countries quite well and many people appreciate the familiarity of having someone remember your name and your beverage of choice. However, I can’t help thinking that the American giant that Starbucks is, has rather underestimated the British somewhat. We are a reserved breed, and we like our privacy and can’t really make the connection between giving our name away for an Espresso. As someone outwardly expressed

“Someone stuck behind a counter doesn’t need to know your name to serve you. They are not your friends, unless of course you wish to make friends with them.”

Quite right, indeed. No need to get all ‘chummy’ as it were. What are they going to do when there are queues out the door, as there usually are at 9am in central London? As many others have commented, they would prefer Starbucks to get their drink order right first and not take 20 minutes about it, before trying their luck with names.

If they are going to persist with this behaviour I suppose we might as well all have some fun with it. What about saying your name was Robocop. Or Lord Voldemort.

“I started to go by the name Fonzy. At least when they called it out i could go ayyyyyy. Never got tired of doing it.”

Or you could always try:

“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius; father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife; and I will have my skinny latte with an extra shot, in this life or the next!”

(All comments shamelessly stolen from some comment box or other)

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