“Merely satisfying customers will not be enough to earn their loyalty. Instead, they must experience exceptional service worthy of their repeat business and referral. Understand the factors that drive this customer revolution.” (Rick Tate)
In an environment where the time-to-market for products tremendously decreases, and competition by the same token increases, it needs services that delight your customers by creating unforgettable experience to them. The experience takes place through multiple touchpoints in which the customer has contact with the service provider across multiple channels and conscious and sub-consciously evaluates these with all his senses. Every touchpoint contributes to the overall experience and has the potential to make or break this experience journey. For customers and providers alike it is very difficult to articulate what exactly is happing before and during this journey.
Earlier research in the service and marketing domain has investigated retrospectively what dimensions customers use to evaluate particular services, whereas research in the design domain revealed somehow richer insights on what happens during the actual consumption of the service. This longitudinal data is generated through qualitative methods that allow the researcher to be physically present and observe and analyse insights while the actual journey takes place.
However, what remains unclear is what actually triggers customers to use a service in the first place also considering existing alternatives in the customer’s choice set. Some findings in the marketing literature hint towards some underlying needs that the customer sub-consciously perceives to be fulfilled by the service he or she chooses. Best practice examples are services that delight customers rather than merely satisfy their basic needs. It seems therefore crucial to understand what these needs are. Up until today, there is however not much research on how to disentangle these underlying customer needs and design service offerings accordingly to created superior customer experience.
In fact, the truth is that only a very small number of companies around the world excel at this task. This fairly small number is even more dramatic for utilitarian (versus hedonic) services in industries such as e.g. health care or financial services. Designing services to address both conscious and sub-conscious selection criteria such as latent (i.e. underlying) needs for utilitarian services causes the greatest challenge to service providers.
The aim of this project is to investigate these best practices and make a first attempt in disentangling what drives customers to use their services in the first place. It is essential to advance our knowledge on what intangible, unconscious, and sensory stimuli play a role in a customer’s selection processes, which may in turn be indicators for the service performance. In business terms we would call these intangible KPIs of superior service experience. Service design constitutes a state-of-the-art approach that will be used to dive deeper into the customer’s minds in order to advance our scientific understanding and translate findings into success dimensions for organisations.