I recently read a great article titled “Why good design is finally a bottom line investment” on the FastCompany website. The article focused mainly on the tech world and a product-centric view of design which is what most people think of when you mention the word ‘design’. To most people design makes them think of Apple products, perhaps a Dyson vacuum cleaner, or the Mini.
These are in fact the outcomes of world-class conscious design. Design in this context is usually a process, an activity, or a mindset. To be world-class there has to be an obsessive attention to detail, and a care for how the component parts fit together to create the look, the feel, and the function.
Usually the most memorable instances of design are those that we see and experience around us on a daily basis and are therefore mostly physical products. Increasingly such an approach to design is fundamental the in-tangible elements of products and services, yet many organisations are yet to grasp the need for this.
Using one of the examples of exemplar design above, Apple, whilst you only have to watch the video for the new iPhone to see the effort put into product design with diamond milled chamfers, etc.. when it comes to other parts of their ecosystem the challenge is often greater as it involves elements outside of their control and who care less about the detail.
If we look at gift cards for example, they can be bought widely and are usually a gift for someone else and so have a higher intrinsic value to their face value. If we look at the end to end process then:
- the cards are produced by vendor of the service such as Apple, Amazon, etc.. and shipped to the point of sale
- the customer picks one up and takes it to the checkout
- at the checkout the card is scanned for payment and in doing this it links back to vendor to activate the card producing an authorisation receipt at the till
- the purchaser gives the card as a gift and the recipient then goes onto vendor’s platform such as iTunes and redeems the card transferring the value into their account
A pretty linear, multi-step process which is logical from all of the participants perspectives and which probably works 99.99% of the time or more. The weak link is the point of sale as if the card isn’t authorised properly then the process is compromised.
Due to the range of retailers that sell the cards it is likely that the card is processed as a part of a wider range of groceries which are intrinsically are less complex and therefore processed for efficiency.
It is only when the recipient tries to use the card that the problem is identified. This happens to be the point at which it can cause most damage as the recipient is disappointed and the purchaser is embarrassed that their present didn’t work.
This isn’t a criticism of the vendors, fraud amongst gift cards of all types is prevalent. The above process is similar for most modern day gift cards and the owner of the weak link in the process is the retailer who doesn’t value the vendor’s brand as much as the vendor would like.
If we look at how others have overcome this issue then often where the retailer is the vendor then staff have been trained to ensure that the cards are activated and to ensure that the customer understands the importance of the activation receipt. The other alternative is to either cut the retailer out of the loop and sell direct or move the activation to be a transaction between the buyer and the vendor.
Such attention to detail in terms of service delivery is what is required to stay ahead of the pack in an ever competitive world as one small dislocation in the process can undermine the reputation of all involved. Increasingly, design is not just something done by engineers, architects, and graphic artists, it is increasingly a life skill.