November 18, 2020

Assume no prior knowledge

Here’s another simple solution to the confusion I experienced the other day – don’t assume I know what all you suppliers know, and include the unit of measurement with the price.

Nicely leading in to principle no. 6: “A good service requires no prior knowledge to use”.

In this mini-series of blogs, I’m working through the principles outlined in this brilliant book by Lou Downe “Good Services” as a way of exploring how Service Design principles might apply to services that are delivered through people, rather than through online systems.

My thinking is that if you think of your people as users, you can design your operational processes as services that enable your users to deliver the business promise on your behalf. And if you follow the design principles for good services, you’ll build a scalable and resilient operation.

Back then, to principle no. 6.   As Lou puts it: “There is no service that will be used just by people who have used it before.”

When someone new joins your business they don’t know what you know.  They don’t know how you work, even if they have years of experience in the same field.  That means that they will automatically follow their own assumptions about how things work, and default to doing things the way they know.   If you have deliberately made yourself exactly the same as every one of your competitors, this is fine, but I happen to think that’s unlikely.

So the question is, how do you address this?  Here are some ideas:

  • Make as much as possible as self-explanatory as possible – like having a flat plate on the ‘push’ side of a door.
  • Give people a map, that shows the destinations and the different routes for getting there, and a compass for in case they get lost.  Or, if you prefer a different analogy, a score to follow.
  • Train people in your way of doing things.   Base your training on a familiar model, like learning to drive, or to fly a plane, and let them master the basics in a simulator first.  Teach all the likely scenarios, not just what happens to occur during their first week with you.
  • Build resources that will help newbies to learn (and oldies to remember) for themselves – explainer videos, detailed instructions, useful techniques, tricks and tips.  Make sure your map or score includes pointers to these, but isn’t cluttered up with them.
  • Include meta-services “What to do if you don’t know what to do“, “Where to look for answers.” that give people a way in.
  • Follow all the principles of good Product and Service Design.

In other words, “Design your company, or it will be designed for you.”