If we are building services for humans, it means that it is these humans who define if the service was great or not.

Cheap wine in fancy bottles

Maybe you remember this well-known example of the perception of quality with wine 🍷. If you make people take a blind test of a glass of cheap wine and a glass of expensive wine, most of us won't figure out which one is the more expensive one. 

Service designers understand perception similarly. 
A service designer believes that the quality of a service is dependent on the perception of the people who use it. 

So, you could build the perfect service. But if people don’t understand this perfection, then basically it doesn’t matter 🤔

What is service quality?

In 1988, some academics wanted to define what Service Quality is. After a long study 🧪, they came up with a so-called “model of service quality”. It’s a simple formula:
SQ = P - E

SQ is service quality, P is the individual’s perceptions of the given service delivery, and E is the individual’s expectations of a given service delivery

This means that when a service designer works, he is dealing with the human perception 👁 and not with the hard, scientific facts. There is a pretty nice quote from Dale Carnegie which sums up this thinking quite nicely:

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” 

A practical example

We often have a tendency as humans to solve the big problem. If I were to ask you how you can make the London Underground better, you might say: “faster and more trains!” Yeah, that’s a great idea but it costs a shitload of money to make that happen.

In one of his TED talks, Rory Sutherland gives us the answer that a service designer would give:

The single best thing that the London Underground did in terms of improving passenger satisfaction per pound spent wasn’t faster, more frequent, or later running trains, it was putting dot matrix display boards on the platform to tell you how long you were going to have to wait for your next train.

This is pretty smart as putting some displays definitelity costs way less than having to buy new trains! 

Because service quality is a matter of perception, service designers are able to come up with solutions that change the perception of the experience without having to spend the big bucks 💰.

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