Aug 12, 2009

getting past the endless arms race

Via comes this great post from Jeff Howard at Design for Service about the endless arms race of quality v. customer expectations...

I pretty much expect FedEx never to lose my package. In fact, I expect overnight delivery to anywhere in the world. How crazy is that? It’s taken fewer than 30 years for something magical to become a commonplace.

At what point do we hit the wall with services? Are they ever actually good enough, or is it an endless arms race against mediocrity and commoditization?

Howard's proposed solution -- unpredictability and "random acts of kindness" -- makes sense to me, esp. when looking at service design through the lens of brains-as-pattern-recognition machines. If the brain doesn't recognize the pattern, it pays attention. (Jeff Hawkins' book On Intelligence should be required reading for product and service designers, IMHO.) The challenge is finding just the right pattern breaker that pleasantly surprises and is cost- and operationally-effective to deliver.