Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business
I recently wrote a review of this book on our programme website and though this may be helpful for people using this site too, as this book is a great contribution to existing service design literature.

So if you’re a business trying to deliver excellent service across all touchpoints and coming up short, try focusing your energy and resources on one or two ‘attributes’ that give you a competitive advantage. Anyone familiar with The Kano Model will understand these touchpoints as ‘delighters’. And as the book highlights, implementing these will result in what the Frei and Morriss call ‘Uncommon Service’.

Examples of Uncommon Service? To illustrate how uncommon service works in practice the book highlights several examples, however I prefer this British comparison between the Savoy hotel in London and the Travelodge hotel chain. The Savoy is a five star hotel in central London, catering for an international market looking for a premium hotel experience. Travelodge is a budget hotel chain offering affordable and convenient accommodation for a broad range of traveller. However, the Savoy charges £500 per night for their rooms and Travelodge around £30.

With this in mind Travelodge has focused on three service attributes it can afford to deliver better than it’s competitors, these are; location, price and simplicity. Attributes that it clearly delivers on well, as it was recently listed fifth in Sigel & Gale’s UK Simplicity Index 2011.

What does this means for service designers? This is a great book and an excellent contribution to existing service design literature. Primarily it provides a new perspective on how clients could leverage service design in affordable and effective ways. Often service designers attempt to create value across all areas of a business, but this just isn’t feasible. I recently discussed a similar point with Joe Ferry from Intercontinental Hotels Group, as he described the “huge gap” between the concepts and propositions created by service designers and the delivery of these. This difficulty in translating visionary concepts into practical and financially viable new services was also covered by Joel Bailey from Capita in his blog post “Where are all the service implementers?” last year.

Uncommon Service presents a new type of service designer, one that uses the design process to understand value and apply very focused and cost effective interventions. As opposed to the freedom shown in conceptual service design projects presented by may agencies, that are free from complex organisational structures or implementation procedures.

Perhaps this is why we are seeing more and more in-house teams appear within O2, VW and Virgin Atlantic amongst others.

Another useful contribution Uncommon Service makes is that the tools used in the book are available to download from a specific website, I’ve used them a couple of times and find them helpful, simple to use and well structured: www.uncommonservice.com

In summary, here are three points to start thinking about: 1: Companies can’t afford to deliver excellent customer experience every time, skills in deciding what to prioritise and identifying levels of ROI will prove increasingly important for service designers.

2: If service designers are delivering broad concepts that can’t be implemented by the organisation, what’s the point? New experience in service delivery must be gained by service designers to help clients relate service innovations to delivery and implementation.

3: Creating a service proposition that delivers ‘uncommon service’ is pretty brave, companies have to first realise they must be average in some areas, something company directors don’t really want to admit.

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One Comment
MikalFM on May 26, 2012 9:28pm
From my GoodReads review:

This book has useful elements of service design but falls short of meaningful advancement in favor of a standard 'customer service' approach. The book sometimes strays from its thesis "putting customers at the core" and at various times adopts the banner of "doing less to get more". Fundamentally this book is as if blue ocean strategy was re-written specifically for services. (Choose the dimensions you will excel in, others not so much).

This approach while valuable falls apart with the inconsistent rigor applied to selecting the highlighted companies. At various times the book recommends Best Buy as a notable example, when their shortcomings should have been obvious by the time this book was written.

Overall this book inspired my thinking but is a 'nice to read' not a definitive contribution to service design or management.

Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business
By Frances Frei, Anne Morriss
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