Not even Disney...
Service Design Thinking

Reading time: 7 minutes

I had always enjoyed my iPad, dating back to my first-generation iPad that’s now primarily relegated to preventing all out minivan apocalyptic collapses that end with mom or dad in jail helping ensure pleasurable driving experiences on family road trips with our three children, all of whom are under the age of four.


But it wasn’t until I leveled up to the 3rd generation iPad, or the “new iPad” as it was bizarrely appropriately named, I mean that is until there was a newer new iPad called the new iPad iPad Air, that I splurged for a keyboard case. It wasn’t cheap, even by the going rate for iPad cases, but it changed how I use the iPad, what apps I ante up for, how I stay organized during meetings, write blogs on my rail commute, watch TiVo, you name it.

Unfortunately, despite how well the keyboard actually worked for me, the supporting structure that props the iPad up in place wore out ever so slightly, more and more over time, until one day on my back patio it gave way sending my precious the new iPad down to the hard concrete to its untimely, shattered death.

If only the case had been even half as reliable as the keyboard it came with. I had actually really enjoyed the way the keyboard was backlit and how the keys were in the same position where my muscle memory had taught me they should be based on years of piteous social media debates experience. It was surprisingly seamless to move from my laptop to my iPad and back again. There was no fumbling around striking the wrong key repeatedly as though I was incapable of adapting, which apparently I am, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

But that case…can’t do it, won’t do it again. Thankfully the fear of my wife striking me with a blunt object for repurchasing the same product brought me to my senses I’m smart enough to not fall for that same trap.

I tend to do my fair share of research before making any large purchases, and all of the reviews I read kept referring the keyboard case that had just betrayed me. Users had reported that other competitors’ keyboard cases had problems with some combination of the size of the keys, an unnatural spacing between the keys, the layout of the keys, the responsiveness of the keys…you name it.

Too often we label the prop as the “touchpoint” and direct all of our attention on that

So was I really going to be a complete ignoramus and purchase the same product that had already exposed itself to me for what it was? I believe George Bush said it best when he said “fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again” there’s a quote out there that says fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

The NBA used to have a marketing campaign around “Where [fill in some moment in NBA history] happens.” I could only envision a commercial for this product being “Where [show video clip of flimsy iPad case followed by shattered iPad screen] happens.”

So where is this all going?

Service Design Thinking

Marc Stickdorn, coauthor of This is Service Design Thinking,really pushes looking at the complete big picture view of the service or product you’ve created from all angles. Any disconnects throughout your customers’ experiences need to be eliminated.

It’s not good enough to only get most of the product or service right (I cringe when anyone misrepresents the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, to incorrectly justify half-assing things getting something mostly right for most users most of the time). Surely you must realize that your customers will rate your product and/or service based on their entire experience. To really fully empathize with their perspective, Marc suggests service safaris—walk in your customers shoes, find those moments of truth. What surprised you, what delighted you, where were you confused? How did your emotions evolve throughout your experience?

Quality is up to interpretation and a feeling that your customer develops over their experience with your product or service, something intangible that you need to experience to appreciate.

In a previous post, I talked about customer journey maps, which highlighted what’s known as touchpoints. But Marc made me realize that the term touchpoint, in and of itself, is misleading right from the start. The intended meaning behind touchpoint in experience mapping is much more than a discrete moment in time. And furthermore, it’s not necessarily anything you actually “touch.” It’s not always an interface or something that’s designable or controllable for that matter. For instance you can’t design how people talk about you. You may be able to influence it, but regardless it’s not often anything specific encapsulated in a moment of time, but rather a “scene” in a movie, or a set of interactions that occur over a period of time.

Customer Experience Map for P2P Car Sharing from the Borrower's Perspective.

Customer Experience Map for P2P Car Sharing from the Borrower’s Perspective.

Sometimes we confuse touchpoints with what we call service evidence. For example, you receive an email confirmation of a purchase. Looking at it, seeing it, processing it—those actions collectively might represent the touchpoint, whereas the actual email itself is the prop, or the service evidence. Too often we label the prop as the “touchpoint” and direct all of our attention on that, when in reality the touchpoint is that series of actions of receiving and interpreting the prop. Disproportionately focusing our time and energy on the prop rather than the entire touchpoint leads us down the road of little or no return, perhaps even a negative return.

Disney’s Good Intentions

Take the great Walt Disney Company, who have long been known for creating great customer journeys. However, even they, in their thought leadership in this realm, aren’t always exempt from the dreaded service disconnect.

Disney offers elegantly designed, beautifully packaged, customized wristbands called MagicBands that act as an all in one device to let you utilize FastPass+ entrances, enter parks, connect Disney PhotoPass images to your account, and charge food and merchandise purchases directly to your Disney Resort hotel room.

It is also the key to your Disney Resort hotel room.

Sounds benign enough. A small device I can wear that “does it all.”


The problem when they first came out was that these wristbands were so beautifully designed, that customers would pack them inside their suitcases to avoid unnecessary exposure to damage during their flights and transit to the resort. Unfortunately, some customers failed to realize ahead of time that part of the “magical express” experience was separate delivery of their luggage to their hotel, which could arrive up to 3-hours later.

Bad experiences are more likely to inspire customer reviews

You can see how this could go badly—arriving at your hotel room before your luggage that contains the key to get into your room…or conversely if said luggage has already been delivered to your room—with your keys inside, without you. In other words, you got locked out before you even got in.

A great idea, with an even greater service disconnect.

What’s The Gist?

The big picture needs to consider ALL design. Not just what’s on the screen. Not just the keyboard part of your keyboard case. Understanding how, where, why, and when your customers use your product or service throughout their journey isn’t something you can figure out sitting at your desk. If not you, then hire someone who will get out there and experience what your customers actually experience, not what you think they experience. How does your product or service fit into the rest of your customers’ activities? Questions like that require deeper dives.

Get your ethnography on. Numbers and statistics can only tell you so much. Quality is up to interpretation and a feeling that your customer develops over their experience with your product or service, something intangible that you need to experience to appreciate.

To bring it back full circle, the new keyboard case I ended up going with has a great supporting structure, which has yet to even think about flopping over backward, but damn that keyboard. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve clicked the home key (which exits me out of the application I’m using) above the letter ‘Q’ when I meant to simply press the number 1. Did anyone with actual experience using a typical keyboard participate in the testing phase of this product, and if so, how did it pass? Once again, I’m a casualty of a service disconnect. But sadly for the business, my dissatisfaction directly translates into the business’ bottom-line.

Right or wrong, from your customer’s perspective, your service disconnect implies a lot more about your organization as a whole than you may want to acknowledge. And keep in mind that bad experiences are more likely to inspire customer reviews.

Get out of the tunnel and explore the entire landscape. Service Design Thinking.