Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Service Design

I'd never really thought of services being designed. I'd always felt that they were something that just worked out on their own. Shows how much I pay attention sometimes. But it makes sense now.

When my mother started her restaurant back home, she obviously had to put some thought into how the customers would interact with the servers. She designed the restaurant so that the customer would walk into the first room which would had a coffee bar. This is also where the customer would order a meal from the employee working behind the counter. The customer would then choose a table in one of the other two rooms and wait for another employee to bring out their meal. I always felt that this was flawed. What happens when the restaurant gets too busy? Do order get mixed up? Etc, etc. But using Saffer's chapter, Service Design, I can now obviously see that her design was flawed.

According to Saffer, a designer must design to accommodate how people interact within the service in real time. He uses the example of a Starbucks in which "customers order their drinks, employees make the drink, and then customers customize the drinks..." All this has to be designed considering that everyone will fit into their roles, playing a "part". My mother designed her restaurant without room for error. For her service to work, the customer must know without fail, their role; to order at the counter, then go sit at a table and wait for the food. But if a customer doesn't know that, they stand around, usually awkwardly, in the front room waiting for their food. Then the food comes out and they realize that they were supposed to sit at a table and wait there. This usually happens a lot, and when it's peak hours (lunch), the front room becomes overcrowded and it becomes hard to be of good service. Orders get confused, people don't get their food and it just becomes a bad scene.

To fix this, my mother needs to choose one service or the other. Ordering at the counter and picking up food there or a traditional wait service at the table. She needs to loosen up the "parts" that her employees and customers play in order to have a successful service design.

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