At Open we identify and examine customer issues. At DNA we deliver on that thinking.

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein

open responsive


John Milmine December 2012

If you haven't heard of it yet, you will soon. Any digital agency with a brain in their skulls will be bringing it up. Any employee looking for a promotion will be sending you articles, maybe even this one.  More

Making ideas work

Collaboration, not capitulation

Grenville Main November 2012

Historically, creative organisations have largely been terrified by the thought of having clients too close on a project. Having them working with you on a project, contributing their thoughts and ideas at will, opens the door for them undermining the creative process at best and at worst it could mean having to capitulate and execute their naff ideas.

But, the times they may be a changing. More and more agencies and clients are collaborating – but is it true collaboration? To us, true collaboration means bringing together a mix of people and organisations, and pitting their strategic and creative skills against a common goal; it means everyone contributing equally and transparently. In short it is joint ownership of both the process and the outcome. Is that what collaboration looked like across your recent experiences?

Unless agencies and client organisations both develop the right skills, processes and attitudes to support true collaboration they are likely to find collaborative projects remain fraught and at times fruitless, and particularly for agencies this may well leave them stuck, and falling behind in a time where collaboration and co-creation is king - or where they cannot deliver on the breadth of thinking and expertise so often now required in a large campaign or programme of work.  More

Making ideas work

Old – meet new

Sherryn Macdonald November 2012

De Bono meet theatre tools. Maslow meet The Business Model Canvas. 

Old models are old for a reason. They have stood the test of time. They made sense at the time and they continue to make sense. Much of this is due to their simplicity. Six hats, each representing a human mode of thinking. Five hierarchies, each representing a human need. Such simplicity means they still have life and value in them, you just have to look to apply them in new ways. More recently I threw De Bono's hats into the theatre ring.

I was introduced to the power of theatre by Adam St John Lawrence (@adamstjohn) of WorkPlayExperience in his workshop at the Service Design Global Conference 2011. The mantra, Doing Not Talking, means you have to get up and try stuff out. Learning comes from the doing and the experiencing. It's a process you have to lean into. The leaning does get easier.

Facilitating a spatial co-create session, I invited stakeholders, staff and customers to lean into the theatre process with me. First off, we broke open the usually hidden dusty dark corners of the Black Hat (the Devil's advocate who judges why something won't work). Creating a new technique now named 'Chuck A Chicken', everyone got to throw a squeaky rubber chicken at the wall while asserting their issues of the project. Rubber chickens are a ubiquitous theatre tool. Check out #rubberchicken on Twitter.

An essential theatre technique in service design is playing out a likely service scenario and progressively iterating it. In the space to be designed, staff played out customers, stakeholders played out staff and the rest of the group played the crowd. Playing out different roles enables participants to put on the Red Hat (emotion) and truely feel what its like to be that person in that situation. Empathy is a powerful emotion.

Being in the crowd enables participants to absorb the macro view of the service scenario. Putting on the Green Hat (creativity), they can yell "cut" at any point, interjecting with an idea to improve the experience. In the spirit of Doing Not Talking, you show your idea by moving the props, adding props, introducing a new role, taking over an existing role. Moving people about means everyone gets to wear different hats.

De Bono's hats are a way of organising thinking. Theatre is a way of experiencing our thinking. A perfect meeting I will be repeating.

As for Maslow and The Business Model Canvas, that's another post.


Human Factors

Walking the walk

Charlene Turei October 2012

Recently a team discussion around the usefulness and usability of some internal systems sparked some debate about what was actually needed. What was clear was that there were different perspectives and different needs that required some understanding in order to affect positive change within the systems. So, presented with this problem, we decided it was time to walk the walk and apply our approach to ourselves.

What has been most interesting about this is just how tricky it can be to conduct such a project within your own organization, particularly a small business. In your own environment you can be tempted to let your own experience cloud things and colleagues can think you know a lot more than you do about them, their role and what it’s like for them on a daily basis. Familiarity in some cases also meant that sessions were difficult to keep on track and needed to be refocused to ensure all key concepts were covered.

While we ran the process much as we would for our clients, we had to synthesize the information over a few levels rather than producing Personas. The depth of information gained during the interviews was appropriate for creating Personas, but for an internal piece of work in a small business, it felt both strange and potentially risky to follow this path. The key was to create tools that were abstracted enough where people could still identify with the attributes, concerns and needs without anyone feeling singled out or others jumping to a conclusion about who an output might be referring to.

As most of our clients are larger organisations with many staff, executing our process on ourselves has given us an appreciation for some key considerations when creating empathy tools for smaller businesses. It has also reinforced the value of such exercises for any sized organization in identifying opportunities for optimizing systems that enable people in their roles and the potential to reshape culture and improve service delivery models.


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Human Factors

Your place or theirs?

Charlene Turei October 2012

The question of where is best to interview people in order to gather the right information to create quality Personas can be contentious. On the one hand it’s much cheaper to bring people to you and possibly less time consuming, but on the other hand we believe this denies researchers (and ultimately our clients) access to valuable information that can only be gathered by experiencing each participants personal context. 

As an example, a colleague and I recently found ourselves sitting in a small lounge, in a small ex-state house, in a small town, surrounded by 3 generations of a blended family. This unique experience embedded a deep sense of the person and their situation in relation to the subject matter of discussion. Interviewing the same person away from that environment would’ve yielded a totally different outcome that would’ve missed a vital link with their partner and a genuine sense of family dynamics in a crowded home.

You could ask questions to obtain similar information at the surface level, but when you only have an hour with someone you have limited time to build such contextual knowledge. You can’t possibly cover the same depth of context as you gain by just being in amongst it. By opening your senses to all that is going on around you take all of this in while focusing the conversation where it needs to go. Later when synthesising the knowledge gained in order to create Personas, you often find the things you’ve absorbed through the experience play an important role in creating Personas that feel real.

Having said all that, this approach does require high personal and organisational commitment that some perhaps aren’t willing to invest. Engaging in people’s lives can be mentally and emotionally taxing, travel is time consuming, and costly, but the level of connection made with people and subsequently the realness able to be embedded in Personas takes these empathy tools to a whole different level and that, makes it all worthwhile.  More


What a difference (a) design makes

Grenville Main September 2012

The Designers Institute of New Zealand (DINZ) should be applauded for adding the best effect award to the best programme.

We have lagged for a while - across town CAANZ have AXIS and have brought the Effies in to play (they are now a few years on and here to stay) - the MA and TVNZ have been focussing on outcomes and effect in their annual awards, and TUANZ and others have made the ROI of any given entry central to their recognition. These categories and awards programs have always been spot on when they have celebrated by asking "not what you can create, but what can creative do for your client".

The parallels around the world are the likes of AIGA and DBA in the UK (The Design Business Association) - both of these organizations are champions of effective design that is accountable, delivering both creatively and commercially.

Meanwhile we have too often been seen as just the colouring in guys. Don't get me wrong - there is value and merit in the craft of design delivery that we need to uphold and celebrate…but the 'Best's' have been a bastion of that alone for too long.

The industry has struggled to have top table conversations and be taken seriously by much of NZ business, and we have lagged as a contributor alongside the likes of NZTE's Better by Design programme. That said there are many smart design thinkers, and some very strong examples of effective design delivered annually - but to me this still signals the need for a growing determination by New Zealand design Inc (not just by the institute) to elevate the debate and highlight the success stories we have to prove the effectiveness of design for New Zealand business.

The best effect finalists represent a broad, deep and significant contribution to New Zealand business. Amongst the effects are moving primary produce up the value chain, revolutionising pest management, making people care about their power usage, deploying digital media inventively to enrich engagement whilst slashing costs.

The challenge for design has been to be taken seriously by business for many years. That imperative is all the greater in these constrained times. The effect of any activity is scrutinised in ROI terms. What we do is no longer commissioned because of what design is – but rather because of what design does.

For the record - this post was first published by Idealog - to see more of Grens ranting check out Idealog's design ruminations.  More

I Do3

Brand Experience

I do!

I recently got married and am now someones ‘missus’. If you work at DNA you would probably already know this due to the constant wedding chatter that was coming from my pod, but not ordinary chatter (bridesmaids dresses, suits etc) this chatter was all about colour palettes, icons, look and feel – and that all important consistent thread, making sure our guests got a consistent ‘on-brand’ experience.

It dawned on me halfway through the wedding prep, that this wedding was really just a big client brief and by default I was applying the very principles that make campaign generation and activation so successful. You take for granted working in this industry, having the knowledge of all these tools and bringing something large together. So naturally I swung into suit planning mode. “Everything needs to be seamless, have that sense of integration”. (Cue awkward looks from my fiancee and bridal party) “Bridgette – briefings, mood boards, iconography?” My husband didn’t understand why it was so important that everything was integrated and planned out perfectly, the answer seemed obvious to me, but then I thought how many people really understand the importance of integration, planning and process and how it can make or break your campaign.

On even the smallest of budgets, campaign integration allows you to leverage elements – driving greater reach, and efficiency. Sound planning and process enables you to stick to the brief, and ensure things run smoothly. Sounds simple right? It is, but sometimes we fall victim to lack of time or will to follow process. So often it is easier to approach every brief in silo, put your blinkers on and get it done to the deadline. Doing so usually means you loose consistency, projects cost more and things take longer. Short term win, but long term fail.

Take my wedding for example….

When I (we) started planning the wedding I (we) had a clear vision of what we wanted. We worked up a mood board and segmented it into different categories – from this out fell the theme ‘Vintage romance with a hint of contradiction’ think dusky pink, hand written type, DIY feel, animals, big character. This became the consistent thread that brought everything together. Everything we did going forward was assessed against the mood board – did it fit? Was it conducive to the overarching look and feel? Does it add to the consistent experience – no? fail, yes? lets consider it. It took all my strength not to fall into the silo trap. Just because something is cool, and I like it, does not necessarily mean that we should include it. 

Our event plan also drove integration and ensured things ticked along nicely – every element implemented at each phase of the wedding, was consistent – and again provided our guests with the same experience. Vintage furnishings, nude and pink colour palettes, hearts, bucket loads of bunting and lots of DIY loveliness. Towards the end of it, I have to admit I did get over all the paper – updating of running sheets, contact sheets, briefs. But perseverance paid off.

So what did the end result look like? The day went off without a hitch. The project plan, running sheets, briefs, moodboards, site layouts all paid off. The theme was evident throughout and people appreciated the effort and the long DIY nights that went into bringing it all together. I received a few jabs in the speeches about my lists and ‘ticking boxes’, but that’s okay they will come across to my way of doing things soon. At the end of the night my husband and I took a walk down the boat ramp and looked back at the marquee. Laughter filled the air, bunting swayed in the wind, the photobooth and pinata were going off. Chris turned around and said ‘I get it now, this was big, and everything came together and slotted in nicely, you aced it… I will never question your process again’. So this suit and new wife smiled ‘good, you have a lifetime ahead of spreadsheets, boxes and lists’.

So it just goes to show that process and the benefits of ‘the consistent thread’ and associated tools – are transferable to every day life. Why change something that is not broken? The proof is always in the pudding.


Service Design

Clever Government?

Noel Brown March 2012

It’s been a busy start to the new year for many of us and how come it's already March? We are winding out the financial year, looking forward to the next and in Wellington eagerly watching the manoeuvring around the Government’s planning for their new year and May’s budget. It’s no secret that significant change is on the way. The impetus to constrain Government spending is gaining momentum. But will the change be just brutal reductions reminiscent of Muldoon’s razor gangs of the early eighties – a 10% cut in every department – or something cleverer? Do our politicians have the vision and our public sector leaders the nouse to innovate rather than cut our way to a more effective public service?

We are hearing encouraging noises from the public sector itself – receptiveness to, interest in and even concrete plans for innovation in the way public service is delivered are clearly evident. And the opportunities are myriad. One example is Inland Revenue’s quest to get 95% of their transactions enacted online. Imagine the transaction volume and the quantum of system innovation necessary to get all but a very few trusting their tax to the online medium. I imagine that New Zealand would be one of the first jurisdictions in the world to achieve such a transformation. In the late eighties the Rogernomics inspired reform of the Government sector was similarly world leading and spawned a considerable export of our expertise to the world. The same opportunity exists now. Innovative ways to deliver more service with less cost would find a ready export market right now you’d think.

This sort of breakthrough though is tough, and requires a similarly innovative approach to the challenge of change. Going back to the Inland Revenue example, what will it actually take to change people’s well entrenched behaviours around their tax business? Whatever IT systems drive this, if they are not incredibly well grounded in the realities of life of the intended users they will fail. The challenge will be not so much to roll out the system – though that will be challenge enough – but to understand what the barriers are in the heads and hearts of the users and to imaginatively and realistically transcend those barriers. This will take some brave leadership, and dare I say some superb application of design problem solving. Let’s hope for all our sakes that this combination occurs in many departments.

Customer Experience

Money is not the only currency

Sherryn McDonald March 2012

It's true. There exists a value exchange between business and customers which is not confined to money. People are willing to trade in other currencies of value, if only business would front up for the exchange.

Challenge your business to deconstruct the value exchange with your customers to find what else you can be trading with. In addition to price and cost, people value their time, their energy, their efforts and their psychological wellbeing. If you are smart, you will tune into the latter and start trading on them. Money will follow.

Some examples.

  • Macey's Backstage Pass exchanges instant expertise and advice for customer confidence and validation prior to purchase 
  • Tesco barcode shopper exchanges a virtual shopping list for the assurance of a full cupboard and no forgotten items 
  • A Tesco variant for the Korean market exchanges a whole virtual store which rebates people's time and energy

Want to gain advocacy and have people mention you on Twitter, post a review on MenuMania, Like you on Facebook, Pin it on Pinterest? Find out what you can exchange for their time and energy post service experience.

Like to gain loyalty without squeezing your profit margins? Employ the construct of Gamification to bring fun into the exchange. Foursquare successfully exchanges loyalty for play 

Get out of the money obsession and start deconstructing the value exchange with your customers. Identify what they value, at what part of the service, and start offering it as currency in the value exchange.

If you believe usability is a fundamental value, see Charlene Turei's article, Getting Over Usability, to disrupt your thinking.

New Zealand

Sorting out New Zealand is a design job

Noel Brown November 2011

At DNA we help organisations thrive by making sure that everything they do lines up with, and springs from, their essential nature It’s a design exercise sometimes labelled as branding, service design or customer experience design, but, labels aside, in principle it’s a simple process. Understand clearly the essence of the organisation, then design everything – the way it works, the products it makes, and the way it communicates, recruits and connects with its world – to reflect and reinforce that essence.

The brighter future we are promised will materialise only when we collectively earn a better living in the world. We need to export more and get paid better for what we export. And we need to do that in a world economy which looks shaky at best.

Analysing New Zealand the way we would analyse a client before starting work quickly identifies the problem. A lot of what of what we do is in conflict with our essence.  More

Commercial Intimacy

Who are these people?

John Milmine June 2011

At the end of the day it's not about the numbers. Not even about the conversions. Not about repeat visits. It's about depth. Sure a person may use your service a lot, but if they leave as soon as a rival pops up then their depth of commitment was low. Once you have an engaged customer it's not about telling them your hopes and dreams, it's about listening to theirs. Also while it's nice to hear your grand plans, I also want to know your past times, secrets, fears and embarassing cock-ups. Until then intimacy is still just surface level. If you want customers to flirt with you you're going to have to flirt with them and show them some leg. Not too much too soon though or you'll appear to be some co-dependant attention starved moron who loves long walks on the beach and would you like to move in with me?  More

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Commercial Intimacy

Social Media and Commercial Intimacy

Noel Brown July 2011

Social media was, as its name suggests, envisaged as a phenomenon of the social rather than commercial sphere. The frenetic adoption of social media for commercial ends belies that vision. But as an immature medium (or at least a still rapidly evolving one) the end, or mature state is not yet clear. So far the bulk of corporate and commercial use of social media seems to treat it as just another channel.

In reality it’s potential to turn the tables on big, one direction marketing is enormous. The interpersonal networks that social media supercharge have enormous, latent commercial clout. Any brand or service that performs well or poorly can and will be instantly outed, for good or ill. What is emerging is a hugely powerful, instant and pervasive referral system. This sort of power in the hands of consumers is new – we are picking it will be a powerful driver towards more personalisation and to greater brand integrity.  More

open six things

Making ideas work

Getting things sorted

Martin Grant April 2013

Six learnings for successful experience design

We have just completed a very successful experience design assignment with AA Insurance (AAI). Success in this instance is measured by both hard and soft business outcomes. In terms of hard numbers, the measures are customer response and sales. The soft outcomes are staff engagement throughout the organisation, transformed workspaces, transformed customer experiences and engaged business partners.

AAI is a business spreading its wings that has a story to be told and that needed some changes to set it for the future. As part of the AA family, the general insurance business is steadily making its mark in its market. The business leaders realised that their success will be rooted in both being part of the AA family and also being an insurance company in its own right. Both of these would provide for the needs of the two shareholders (AAI is a strategic joint venture between the AA and Suncorp).

So, what are the learnings that are above the specific project that anyone doing a similar project can look to?  More

Customer Experience

Tricksy Responsive

John Milmine January 2012

Responsive when its done well is great, and anything not good is bad - but its important to remember its not easy - managing content, design and implementation are all tricky. Here are a few tips based on what we've learnt on recent projects.  More

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Bridgette Roe November 2012

I am sure by now some of you would have heard the hype around Pinterest. Pinterest was established in 2001, yes it's 11 years old would you believe. The social media platform invented and created from a garage, now attracts a total of 25 million monthly vists .

It is being hailed as one of the fastest-growing platforms, reaching 10 million monthly visitors more quickly than Facebook or Twitter did. Today it ranks among the top 30 U.S. sites by total page views .

So what is this application everyone is raving about, and how is it being used to boost the positioning and awareness of brands on both a local and global scale?  More

Making ideas work

Are we all designers?

Grenville Main November 2012

Over the years, as DNA has grown I have from time to time been taken to task by some of our designers. The standard accusation was "why are there now so many non-designers in the team?  It’s wrong!" Sure, we are a design-based organisation, but it was suggested that potentially our creativity was being subsumed or at least stifled by all this project management, budget setting and strategy.

Of course we cannot ignore the commercial drivers, the complexity, scale and multichannel integration of many of our projects, which have all grown over the years. This requires a greater diversity of inputs and skills, it requires a focus on project management and more rigor in reporting as we are now ever more accountable and focused on delivering a return on our clients’ investment.

But, what some of our designers had missed was the real trend at play, that designers are everywhere, and they are now coming in all shapes and forms, and that they have all manner of roles and titles in our company  - and in our clients organisations. 

We have a term at DNA, "We are all designers" which leads to a cultural pillar we have - that we need everyone at DNA to be a problem solver, and that we need to apply creativity to every situation we are confronted with – and this is not just in response to the briefs we receive. The fact is that now we have more designers than ever at DNA, only now they are strategists, researchers, IA's, interaction experts, retail delivery specialists, developers, and project managers. Every step of a project or challenge needs a design response and will benefit from 'design thinking', even if it is a project plan that is being designed. 

Design thinking is the ability to combine empathy (for the context of a problem), creativity (in the generation of insights and solutions), and rationality (to analyse and fit solutions to the context). It is evident in every successful interaction we have with clients - and in every successful interaction they have with their customers - and it has made us better when we design. 

For the record - this post was first published by Idealog - to see more of Grens ranting check out Idealog's design ruminations.  More


The business of design

Grenville Main October 2012

Design can no longer be consigned to just the visual layer - or in the inimitable words of a number of our clients and technical partners over the years - the colouring in stuff! Design has always been more than that but stereotypes can become defining.

Whether it’s digital, retail, identity, communications, product or service design, every part of what is done is designed. Not all people on a project consider themselves designers but the design process includes them and often design thinking is what they are contributing. This means our clients design, non-designers design and customers design things alongside us.

Design is no longer the domain of a select few. Instead, it is an approach to solve problems creatively that works best when it is inclusive and openly collaborative. This is something that has crept up on designers by and large, but its not a bad thing. Listening and observing are things we've been known for, brainstorming and the vagaries of the creative process have always relied on a range of external inputs and a dash of serendipity.

When more people are contributing to design, the challenge is never to loose sight of what you are using design to do. The trick is to remember that design is about thinking your way to a solution by observing, ideating, testing and prototyping, not by dictating what you want it to deliver at the outset - sticking to these rules is definitely required in a collaborative forum. As design professionals our role is as the guardians of the process as much as creative provocateurs or even the party accountable for executing the solution. This means we need to share our ability to focus on the gap, the challenge and the opportunity and design a solution that is differentiated, feasible and viable. It also means we need to be adept at proving the likely impact of that solution - before we embark on building it.

But going a step further and having 'customers' help you design is a challenging notion for some. It means identifying and then engaging intimately with your consumers and being open to having the solution be determined by others. It requires openness, but also some rigor so you are guided by deep seated goals and needs and in order to not be sidetracked by grinches, gripes and unrealistic, un-commercial or unfounded desire. Its challenging sure - but it seems it’s here to stay.

If design is a more collaborative endeavour now - are consumers better off? The customer centricity, relevance and intimacy evident in the design of everything from airline travel to banking certainly suggests so.

Is design better off? A diversity of perspectives, a balance between the voice of the consumer and the will of the guys down in IT and Finance can't hurt. Having the customer or user at the centre of a solution is fundamental, best practice for the design process and becoming indicative of the power of the likely outcome. A few notable local examples are Trade me, Air New Zealand and Powershop - so that should prove it has some worth.

And finally, is our industry better off? It will be when more of the profession adopt and adapt to these new methods. Collaboration, co-creation and co-location are common in the projects we do now - while business imperatives, customer needs and goals direct what we deliver. The new way of designing is here to stay.

For the record - this post was first published by Idealog - to see more of Grens ranting check out Idealog's design ruminations.  More

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Creating the perfect storm

Grenville Main July 2012

Article published in Idealog November/December 2012.

As an exporting nation, New Zealand has some innate attributes that other countries don’t enjoy. And it’s these qualities that can provide real value to companies looking at offshore markets.

Customer experience design agency DNA has developed a ‘model for success’ that it’s used to help New Zealand businesses make their mark on international markets. Its clients are diverse but all those that export have have taken a dose of Kiwi thinking to the world and seen positive results.

So, how exactly does this model for success work? Companies should be aiming for a ‘sweet spot’ at the intersection of two vital objectives, says managing director, Grenville Main.

“It’s a combination of being able to meet the real needs of a changing market and embedding the right amount of the New Zealandness into your product, brand or way of working,” he says.

“This is about being able to leverage and address trends, sell the New Zealand story and embody our attributes in valuable ways. It’s also about being guided by the key commercial principles: hitting the market quickly and potently, focusing on customer needs, improving your products/services to suit them, and acting with integrity and openness. The more of these elements you can factor in, the greater your difference and value, and the more your prospects are enhanced.”

What makes things trickier – and where DNA can really add value – is that the New Zealandness, or NZ Inc. attributes as Main also calls it, is continually evolving.

“We see it as the amalgamation of prime attributes of our makeup, our country’s success to date and its overall appeal. The appetite for who we are and how we do things has grown, in part due to key successes, but also due to the intrigue that we keep cropping up and won’t go away despite our size and youth.”  More

Service Design

Getting over usability

Charlene Turei February 2012

Having recently returned from an international conference on Interaction Design in Dublin what struck me most was a sense that we in New Zealand still seem to be hung up on the whole ‘usability’ movement while the rest of the world has moved. This has been on my mind for some time, a sense that we’re putting too much emphasis on usability testing as a way to produce ‘user centred design’.

We at DNA have been challenging this over the past few years and introducing clients to the power of Design Research upfront as a way to ensure your project is heading in the right direction from the start rather than solely relying on rounds of usability testing down the track. This is not to say that usability testing isn’t useful, it’s absolutely a useful tool for validating design and solution choices made throughout the process, but what good is usability testing if you’re designing completely the wrong thing?

When given the opportunity to get out into the field and talk with our clients customers and users we’ve seen enormous benefits for our clients. These have come out of the insights and understanding gained including:

  1. Greater connection and deeper understanding of their customers and users
  2. More focused projects where decisions are made with confidence
  3. Unearthing of different perspectives leading to new opportunities
  4. An ability to better balance user needs, business drivers and IT constraints 
  5. Cohesive and collaborative client/agency teams where focus and priorities more clearly aligned

At Interaction12 where 750+ practitioners came to listen to 80+ talks, it was refreshing to see just how pervasive this way of working is amongst the rest of the world and I can only hope that as we continue to push ahead in this space we’ll start to see growth in research lead work here in New Zealand and the benefits that this brings to clients and their customers.

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Service Design

Consistency of service across partners

Charlene Turei February 2012

When a partner doesn’t deliver the same level of service your business can suffer as a result... My recent experience with booking a long haul flight to London with Air New Zealand and finding myself on sub 'Air New Zealand standard' partner flights between the US and London set my resolve to not fly with Air New Zealand again on a long haul route to UK or Europe.

There was nothing actually wrong with Air New Zealand itself and the experience on board their planes was good as usual. However I had paid ‘Air New Zealand’ prices and having booked with them I expected their level of customer experience across the whole journey. Unfortunately for them, their partners really let them down and I came away feeling disappointed and dissatisfied with Air New Zealand.

It may seem illogical that I should feel disappointed with Air New Zealand for their partners’ shortcomings, but when I think back across the entire experience from planning, to booking, to flying, I realised my disappointment stems from the fact that when booking the tickets, the Air New Zealand holiday shop agent didn’t inform me that I wouldn’t be flying with them the whole way. As a result my expectations were incorrectly set and I was also denied an opportunity to choose a different route to London where I would’ve been flying Air New Zealand the whole way.

When thinking about service design, it’s well worth considering beyond your own services and scrutinising partner or flow on services in order to understand the full picture for customers and mitigate any potential issues they may experience that could reflect negatively on your business.

Customer Experience

Post-digital – what the?

Sherryn Macdonald January 2012

I'm always a little suspicious of such phrases and phases, are they truly the beginning of a new paradigm, or merely the sales driven twist to something current that an agency or channel guru has dreamt up. The latest term I've had throw at me of late is 'post digital'. So what is it and what is it not?

More than digital or after digital?

My first assumption was it meant 'after digital' – what's coming next. In reality it's merely a description of when digital grows up – well, in fact it should be more truly described as when we mature to include digital as a central part of the world we live in rather than a change agent or new toy. In reality then the idea seems to be that everything is now so integrated and multi-device, that digital has no real pulling power as a term or channel in its own right any longer. It seems to me that a more accurate description of the more assimilated-digital than actually post-digital. 

Over time digital has just blended into our everyday life practices. 'Emergent technology' means there are now just more ways to get the interaction and interface between people, communities and commerce. The value exchange however between a business and a customer can now be anywhere anytime, and increasingly personalised. The challenge for business is to make sense of this and find a way to deliver it at a cost that is acceptable to you and your customers – ironically this may mean doing less.

The real challenge in this digital world still seems to be over-building (but that is another post altogether). So if post-digital is assimilated then what I expect as a consumer, a user and a viewer is something that is effortless to use, always available, reasonably priced (no not free necessarily), and most of all about me, for me and right for me. Is that too much to ask?


When is self service going to get personal?

Grenville Main February 2010

For many businesses the challenge is taking the ‘self’ out of self service. If self service is more about saving you money, you may get high adoption, but you won’t get the loyalty you may be looking for. Self service is often attractive as a way for many customers to bypass painful processes, people or que’s, and increasingly mobile base allows a new realm of service and access that customers can drive themselves. However you can’t offer true self service unless its a suite of options that are personally relevant to a range of customers.  Only through understanding the goals and needs of your customers, and by balancing this with what makes the best sense for the business will you define where self service and a more personalised service experience are right for you and your customers. We predict customers will increasingly demand a service that is right for them, so for today's businesses the challenge is serving a niche of one on a mass scale.  More


Is 'below the line' simply a pejorative?

Noel Brown December 2011

I have been wondering for a while about the genesis of the term ‘above the line’ to describe mass media advertising – and its corollary, ‘below the line’, for everything else.

A little bit of online research hasn’t unearthed the source, other than to clarify its association with the same term used in financials. And that’s fascinating. In financial vernacular, the line separates where you make your money from where you spend it – and guess what – above the line is where you make money.

Business managers understand the difference between investments and costs, and what that means: maximise the return on the former and minimise the latter. It’s not absolute, but the things to invest in are mostly found above the line and the costs to minimise are found below it.



Water makes its way to the sea

Sherryn Macdonald February 2010

Just like water making its way to the sea, people take the path of least resistance to reach their goals. A state of flow along any given ‘retail journey’ is achieved by offering the shopper the right path in the right way at the right time – for them. Your customer doesn’t really care about the touch point or the channel you offer  – its their goal that has led them to you and meeting that goal well means the difference between success and failure for you. Online/offline collisions occur when a business is channel focussed rather than customer focussed. Dividing a company into delivery channels ensures budgets, resources and key outcomes are neatly bounded and accountable. However, the reality is each channel eventually converges at the point of the customer.  More

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