Should we delight the customer?

Growing the service design industry requires more than simply educating the next generation of service designers. Business students can also benefit from learning how service design can be used to innovate and address complex market and organisational challenges. That’s why Joan Ball, founders of Womb Service Design Lab, and Martin Dominguez, instructor at Fordham University, decided to experiment with human-centred design in the business classroom.

And they immediately tumbled upon a key question that is framed quite differently by design and business students: should we delight the customer?

This is a rhetorical question for service designers, user experience designers and customer experience designers, because keeping the user in mind is fundamental to design education and human-centred design activities both in the classroom and in professional settings.

For business students with little or no training in design, however, this seemingly simple question triggers surprisingly complex theoretical, practical and ethical classroom discussions. In particular, students majoring in management, finance, accounting, marketing, risk management and other business disciplines can be skeptical of customer-centricity. They are trained to question the costs of overdoing customer service and they seek to understand how customer experience efforts might impact sales, profits, stock prices and other key performance indicators, before they decide if improving the experience is worth the investment.

Despite an emerging focus on the role of customer experience in creating and sustaining value, the view that firms exist to serve shareholders, profit and the bottom line remains at the heart of business education, research and practice today.

Ball, J. and Dominguez, M., “Service Design in the Business Curriculum: Dispatches from the field” in Touchpoint, Service Design Network, Volume 9 No. 1, July 2017