Interview with Dr. Joy Field, Author of Designing Service Processes to Unlock Value

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Dr. Joy Field

Transcript: Today we’re speaking with Dr. Joy Field, Associate Professor of Operations Management at Boston College and a member of the Center for Services Leadership Faculty Network. The second edition of Dr. Field’s book, Designing Service Processes to Unlock Value, was published this month. We asked her what changes had occurred since the first edition was published in 2012, spurring her to write a second edition.

Dr. Joy Field — That’s a great question. I was looking at the book, and in fact I use that book in my class, and I was getting the sense that some of the examples weren’t relevant or helpful anymore. There’s a lot of new examples that better exemplify what’s going on today with respect to how services are being designed and managed. What is interesting, though, is the original motivating example in the first chapter of the book, ATMs and self-service grocery checkout. Why do people love ATMS, and why, although while some people do like self-service grocery checkout, a lot of people don’t. It hasn’t been embraced. And so I went back to see if these technologies are still a good example. Is it still true, that people love ATMs but don’t like self-service grocery checkout? And it turned out to be even more of a relevant example. But there has been an evolution since the first time I wrote the book.

Center for Services Leadership — Field looked into the reasons why people like their bank ATMs but aren’t fond of the grocery store kiosks.

Field — I found some surveys that are recent – from the 2015, 2016 time frame – where they asked customers about their experiences with self-service technology, and in one survey, a third of the customers said they walked out of the store without what they wanted to buy, because they did not want to engage with the self-service technology. And there are other sorts of surveys that had the same idea, that people still were not comfortable, especially with these checkout technologies, and in particular with grocery checkout.

Center for Services Leadership – Confronted with resistance to some forms of self service, firms have responded.

Field — There are a number of retailers that have decided we’re just not going to deal with the self-service technology anymore. It’s not the kind of experience we want our customers to have. It’s not working, we’re not saving money, we’re seeing a lot of shrinkage, we’re seeing a lot of problems and a lot of dissatisfaction, both from the customer’s perspective and from the service provider’s perspective. And so, some firms have gotten rid of that technology. In fact, one example is Costco: either when they open new stores they don’t have it, or they are getting rid of it in their existing stores. 

Center for Services Leadership – But some companies have gone in a different direction.

Field — They’ve learned the pain points for customers, they’ve learned what the customers find easy, what the customers find difficult, and they’ve tried to make changes in the technology to make it simpler and better to use – a better experience for the customers. For example, the self-service grocery checkout would say, “put the item in the bag.” Well, customers found that annoying. It’s like, of course I’m going to put the item in the bag. And so, they’ve gotten rid of some of the annoying and unhelpful language. They’ve improved the experience if you are buying some fruits or vegetables: instead of having to look through a number of screens, they’ve made it easier by putting their top-selling fruits or vegetables first, or if you’ve scanned in your loyalty card they look at your purchasing history.

Those are the two directions that things have gone. So, in a sense, the same problems remain that existed in 2012 and before that, but there’s been a revolution, or at least progress, in one of two ways.

Center for Services Leadership – While self-service was evolving, other technologies emerged. A good example, Field says, is the Internet of Things. Although it existed in 2012, the Internet of Things has since become ubiquitous. Consumers are more aware of it, and applications have increased significantly.

Field — So with the Internet of Things, what we’re taking about is connected smart devices that exchange information, typically over the Internet, and then take action or react — for example, monitoring energy usage in your house, turning down the thermostat or turning up the thermostat automatically. That’s been a big game-changer, because it really disintermediates everybody.

Center for Services Leadership – And, when technology enables a service to be performed automatically there are ramifications for the design of processes around the use of the Internet of Things.

Field — How do you allow customers to have a path to discuss the service, a problem they’ve had, or the kind of information are you actually exchanging? Are customers comfortable with that? How is this information being used to create value? Is it good from the customer’s perspective that they don’t have to be involved? Would they rather be involved? On what level should they be involved? Can they override the decisions that are being made by these devices? There’s a lot of good, important service questions that are being asked.

Center for Services Leadership – For example, Field said that when she gets in her car with her iPhone in hand, Google knows that she is probably going to her office, and offers her information about traffic delays that could impact her trip.

Field — I think it’s great, and if I’m not interested in it I just swipe it away. But do people find that intrusive? Do people find that an invasion of privacy? How you present that information to customers and how you use that information to design services are really important questions to ask, especially with respect to how the customer actually experiences that service. Is it really adding value to them? Or is it detracting from how they perceive the value of the service?

Center for Services Leadership – So what’s on the horizon for technology in services? Field is already looking at block chin technology, which enabled the development of Bitcoin. But block chain has many other applications, as well, Field says, that are opening possibilities for companies like Starbucks.

Field — If you’re Starbucks and you advertise that your products are fair trade, how do you track that all the way back to the producers? Well, this technology allows you to do that by adding a block every time a transaction happens in the supply chain, so that you can actually validate and verify to your customers and to anyone else that’s interested that in fact the products you are selling in your retail stores are ones that are fair trade, all the way back to the field.


Center for Services Leadership – Feld expects block chain to be a real game changer because of the availability and verifiability of information. But the questions about block chain, like the questions about the Internet of Things, are big.

Field — When do you use this type of technology, how do you use it? What information does that convey to the customers and how does that increase or decrease their perception of your particular service delivery process?

Center for Services Leadership – Another technology that’s changing business is RFID, which is being used in new ways.

Field – The use of RFID tags, as they are getting less and less expensive, enables firms to track things throughout processes. This is critical for retailers in so many ways. Inventory levels can be monitored much more closely. Customers can know before they go to a store, if they are still going to stores, that the product is in stock, or it’s not in stock, or when it’s going to be back in stock. Things like this change the customer experience, and add value to those experiences.

Center for Services Leadership – Other opportunities for new service delivery fall into the category of low-hanging fruit, Field says. She finds that one of the most popular breakout sessions at Center for Services Leadership seminars are the ones that explore omnichannel service delivery.

Field — There are so many ways now, especially for retailers, that you can access services. You can go to a store in person, you can call, you can go online, you can do online chat – that’s the omnichannel model. One of the big problems that almost all service providers face is how to integrate what they’re doing through these channels. If I contact you on the Internet, how will you know when I walk into the store that I am the same person and I have this particular issue, or if you chat with me online how does that get integrated into the other channels? 

So, I think there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit there, in terms of how you integrate different channels for engaging with your customers so that you come up with a seamless process. If companies could figure that out I think you’d have a lot less customer dissatisfaction. There’s nothing customers hate worse than having to repeat the same information more than once. They think about every touch point they have with your organization, so how do you design processes that effectively integrate? That’s a great example of low-hanging fruit. 

Center for Services Leadership – Field captures the roles played by all of the parties to service delivery in her value creation framework, which forms the backbone of the book.

Field — And so, one way to think about this is to consider the main framework in my book: the idea of a value co-creation framework. You need to consider the perspectives of all the parties involved: the customer, the service provider, the employees of the firm and how you building and what capabilities should you be building within the organization and through your customers.



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