Expectation and Experience in Product and Service Design

… we shape our buildings;

thereafter they shape us.

Winston Churchill


Thinking of the following, “Products/Services fail because they don’t meet customer expectations”, as only a cliché would be to shortchange the future viability of your product/service. Of course, if a cliché satisfies you, then you have “just another product/service”, by which token the product/service stops being faithful to the requirements of the customer, interesting from usability perspective, and lose any objective value to the customer. The expectations that interact with customer experiences are dynamic, they influence, and in turn are influenced by external factors, such as, economic, social, and psychological. Although, the sources of expectations are not the main concern, awareness of their dynamic nature means that the product/service is always aware of the need to change.

As stated before, customers product/service experience is influenced by his expectations, and with each new expectation the bar is raised for each future experience. All humans have expectations; a child expects to be cleaned, clothed, fed, and entertained; a product owner expects his product to hit the market on the announced date; a developer expects clearly setout use cases for each sprint. We expect the service provider to understand this, and therefore have a service that is designed to meet these expectations. When I go to a restaurant, I expect the food, the ambience, and the service to meet my expectation of good food, friendly service, and clean, comfortable place to complement my mood. When my expectations are not met, I will cease to patronize the restaurant. I might even use the social network to vent my displeasure by highlighting my experience as a warning to others.

This interplay of ones expectations, and how the experiences of product/service affect them is consequence of multiple interactions. In fact every action one performs is performed with an expectation of an end result in mind. Besides making products, services or processes aesthetically pleasing, and functionally rich, design must aim to provide the experiences that meet the expectations of the customer. This is a tall order, and is one of the reasons product/service design creeps into the complex domain.

As the Kano model in the figure depicts, experiences fall into two categories (although, in each single category the

Kano Model

Kano Model

experience may differ in degrees), those that fall into region A, and those that fall into region B. All but a very few of products, services or processes fall in Region A, they provide minimum satisfaction to the customer.  Disruptors are the experiences that fall into region A; they provide experiences far exceeding customer expectation. Experience that is considered a disruptor today will some time in the future become an experience providing minimum satisfaction, and the customer expectations will also change accordingly. As long as the experience keeps falling in region A, the product/service will only be a minimum satisfactory product/service, waiting for the disruptor to steal away its customers.

One cannot convert a minimum satisfactory product/service, into a customer delight product/service merely by adding features. If anything a feature clutter will loose customers even faster. Expectations must be seen as mediators to bring about a change in the status quo, thus jumping to customer delight and true disruption.

The best example of this phenomenon is the mobile phone, which has (or will soon make) made the fixed line phone prod-triangleextinct. At its core the mobile device still remains a communication device, a phone, but it is now on your person, not in a booth or nailed to a wall. But, also as each new applications keep piggy backing on the device, the disruption continues to spread unabated across many domains. As more people are wishing to do their work free of location, leading to more expectations, and this cycle will continue with impact on the economic, social, and psychological of the customer.

About KM Mukku

Kick-start, build and manage teams in product development (particularly in the financial domain), and enjoy all in adaptive case management, business process design and business process improvement. Currently holding the position of CTO at coMakeIT.
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