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Service Driven Product Design

For a long time customer service has been a strong strategic tool for many service-based companies like USAA Insurance Company and the Four Season Hotels and resorts. However, today, product-based companies like Apple and Lexus are relying more on customer service as a complement to their products. The strategy works, although the line between product and service has become blurry. Today, what matters more is the total experience.

This is great from the consumer point of view but it could be a costly proposition for a company if the products are not designed to work well and support a customer service driven structure.

It is here where the power of design can bring enormous value. A well-crafted design/business brief that considers aspects normally ignored such as return policies, warranties, shipping information, maintenance and service. By combining these entities into the design/business brief, companies are able to provide a tangible and instructive resource from which everyone including the customer benefits.

manuel saez

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  • Henry Chang-Collins

    When I moved to my new neighborhood last month, I visited my McDonald's drive-thru twice. The third time I came to the pay window, the cashier recognized me and remembered my name.

    This is perhaps surprising for McDonald's, but it demonstrates to me that Jaykumar's point (while valid for today in setting Starbuck's apart from other mass merchandisers) is beginning to seep into the culture, even one as superficial as the drive-thru line at a fast-food restaurant.

  • Jaykumar Patelia

    I would to add one more company to the line up; Starbucks. There are many Starbucks clients who will come to certain stores simply for the experience they wish to have. Ranging from stores with drive thru's (which will give faster service to the those in vehicles than those in the store) to the local "hang out" styles, which are known for delivering drinks to customers who much wait. Regardless of which you choose, they have figured out that the it is not about the coffee, in today's marketplace facing competition from the likes of McDonald's, Jack In the Box and other fast food chains, Starbucks continues to draw larger crowds while charging more; this is not because their customers never go to the other chains, but rather because their customers know that the service rivals that of the best concierge services in the world. It only takes about ten trips to before the baristas will take the time to remember your name. Try getting that from any other fast food chain.

  • Michael Cummings

    My wife just bought a new Toyota. Toyota get's it: service is the product (the final differentiator ). Why is this still the exception? Let's face it, most managers learned management according to industrial age manufacturing models, and are slow to adapt. "User experience," "customer experience," and "brand experience" are familiar words representing unfamiliar strategic approaches. They don't yet seem to understand--perhaps from training, perhaps from personal thinking proclivity, perhaps (most likely) both--their decisions as service design decisions. I've thought that there is just too much isolation between managers and customers, but it is also that companies foster ego's and hierarchical power structures (and struggles) that diminish or destroy real customer empathy. In any case, I currently think that when/if companies are organized more like networks, and learn to support their support networks (which can take many forms) responsively, they will adapt/survive and even thrive as business/designs.