In Storytelling and Service Design, easy is boring

In a conversation with Romain Pittet, our Storytelling specialist here at Enigma, I found out that good Service Design and good Storytelling actually have a lot in common.

Service Design is in a way the art of making boring Services (like those of a bank) pleasant for the user. To make it happen, Service Design experts rely on a specific tool called the customer journey. This Service Design tool helps map out what are the user interactions with a bank. When do they happen? On what channel? And even more important how does the user feel about it? This last point is what Service Design specialist call the emotional level.

Stories are not that different than a customer journey. They also feature a hero fighting against a complex system, which leads him to go through various emotions.

Good Service Design should have up and downs like stories

This is how good service feels

Many Service Designers believe that it is their duty to create the smoothest customer journey ever. This means they want to avoid emotional ups and downs. They want your interaction with your bank to be as simple, and stable as possible. But is that really a good idea?

Let’s put opinions aside and look at what studies have found out.

At the last Service Design Conference, Robert Neal made a great talk that destroyed this idea. Robert Neal is a researcher interested in Applied Cognitive Science, including Behavioral Economics and especially for Service Design.

In his talk, Neal showed several studies, from Airbnb and his own consultancy. What these studies showed is that people who had an issue with a service that was later resolved gave a better rating to it than people who didn’t have any.

In a way, this is plain logic. What if Darth Vader didn’t lock up Princess Leia? Well Luke Skywalker would have no reason to leave his home. There would be no Star Wars story. Just as a story without obstacles, a service which is too smooth can be boring.

So instead of having the most smooth customer journey, we should have one inspired by Storytelling, with obstacles and victories. Such a customer journey would include emotional ups and downs to enhance the customer experience.

Happy ends can also be used in Service Design

Even a colonoscopy can be a good experience

Disney, Hollywood are well-known storytellers. They have a signature for their stories: the happy end. As I discussed this topic with Romain Pittet, we discovered that happy ends can also be included in Services. We even discovered research on the subject that proves the effect of a happy end for Services.

In 2003, a study was made about colonoscopies by Donald A. Redelmeier, Joel Katz, and Daniel Kahneman. Colonoscopies are not a happy experience, but unfortunately there might be a time when you have to go through it.

The researchers had two group of patients. One group of patients went through a classical procedure. The second group went through a special procedure. This special procedure was a bit longer than the classical one. But in the last moments of the procedure, the doctor didn’t do anything special. In fact, during this additional phase the procedure didn’t really happen. It was a pause in the process.

As it turned out, people who had a longer procedure, with the last moment being unnecessary but not painful, had a less painful memory of the procedure than people going through the standard one. Even better, the people who went through the new procedure were more likely to come back for a similar procedure than the first group.

This is what we call the Peak End rule. This shows us that the memory of an experience doesn’t equal the sum of all tiny moments of that experience. No: the memory of an experience is mostly influenced by the last moments of it.

Services shouldn't be boring

The Service Design of services should be inspired by Storytelling. Having a fixed and smooth user journey will not make people delighted or excited about it. Doing everything good but failing at the end won’t work either. There is a need for a happy end in services too.