Alasdair McGill - Why content marketing is pointless without service design - CMA Live 2017

Alasdair McGill – Why content marketing is pointless without service design

Content marketing is awesome! You invest your time creating great content, growing an engaged audience, building their trust, and eventually winning business. You establish your authority in your market. It’s an incredibly successful and cost-effective way to build a business.

But very few are investing in making sure that they meet the customer’s expectations when they finally do business with you. Your team are good guys, they know how to look after the customer, right?


Sure, when it’s just you at the start you care so much that you look after everyone amazingly well. But as the business grows, you find yourself more and more removed from the customer.

That’s when things can start to go awry.

This is where Service Design comes in.

In this Lightning Talk, Alasdair McGill will explore what service design is and why you NEED to embrace it in your business. He’ll dive into what it takes to create great customer experiences and how they can ensure that you deliver on the promises your content makes. Even better, he’ll show you how service design can boost your bottom line!

Full transcription

[CM] Ali McGill is speaking today from a customer experience, service design approach, and the discussions we’ve had over the last year or so, six months especially, is that it really doesn’t work on its own. Content marketing is part of maybe three or four things that bring it all together. If you’re creating all this content and frankly you’ve got a shitty product that’s delivered in a shitty way, then you’re not helping anybody. You’re talking a good game, but you aren’t actually delivering on that.

This is where content marketing and customer service design go hand in hand, really, they work together to deliver a great experience all round. The experience before, the experience during and the experience after, and it all matters.

That’s why Ali’s here today, to talk to us about this thing that he’s massively passionate about, and I’m really looking forward to learning from you, Ally, welcome.

[AM] How many of you had had this kind of experience dealing with a product or service in the past couple of months, put your hands up?

So pretty much the whole room, it happens a lot, doesn’t it?

Tell me some of the brands, shout them out? BT, these guys come up every time. Give me another one. EE. I’m going to talk about them a little bit today. One more. Yodel. Don’t get me started with Yodel. Your parcel’s in the blue bin.

How does it make us feel when that stuff happens? Frustrated? Pissed off? What else? Fatigued. Does it make us want to do business with these brands again? No. They lose that trust, so if we’re creating content, we’re building brands, we’re building up all this great identity and relationship, and then we let them down, we lose it all.

This is Chloe. Has everyone met Chloe? If you haven’t, go and say hi, Chloe’s the loveliest person you’ll ever meet. Chloe is just the nicest person you’ll meet, butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. But this happened, let’s have a look at that. So Chloe lives on Twitter, loves it, and this happened.

For those that don’t know, DPD are a delivery company, and you’d ordered a product from EE. They didn’t deliver, and they took a picture of a random door, I don’t know, they must just have these on their iPhones, pick a number, tweet it, or they put that through your door, I don’t know how they do that. Here’s proof you’re not in. So I’ve been out and I came home and I saw Chloe’s tweet, so I just had a quick message back, so at this point DPD still haven’t engaged in the conversation, and this was 11 hours later, DPD still haven’t decided to talk to Chloe.

What did they do?

[CFK] Before this even happened, they changed the time four times in that day. I had to rearrange my entire day around this. They were like, Bob will be there in 15 minutes. Okay, waiting for Bob, then this whole thing happened. They didn’t do anything, I couldn’t contact them in any way at all, like zero contact, no way of getting in touch. Then three or four days later they followed me, and they still ignored me.

[AM] So they followed you, but still didn’t DM or say, hey Chloe.

[CFK] I would rather have my iPad.

[AM] I had a look on their Twitter feed yesterday. In fact I had a look on it a couple of days after this happened, and at that point what they were doing was retweeting loads of good people stuff that people were saying about them, and ignoring this. When you look at the Twitter feed now it’s just literally a feed of complaints, dealing with complaints, saying, I’m sorry, can you send us more details. That’s not building trust.

So how do you feel? I think we’ve got the idea!

[CFK] I don’t swear, so I’m not going to answer.

[AM] It’s not good. You’re not going to use them again, given a choice. So that’s what we’ve got to think about with our brands, what’s the service we’re delivering to our customers.

Has everyone heard of the Harvard Business Review? Harvard do research into all sorts of business stuff, and a couple of years ago they did some research into customer expectations and customer experience. They went out and studied 75 thousand customer interactions and experiences to try and understand what we, as consumers, feel like when we engage with a service or buy a product.

People don’t trust us. 84 per cent of the people they surveyed don’t believe that as businesses, we’ll deliver on the promises that we make.

So how many have you got a website that says, we aim to exceed customer expectations?

Hopefully none of you, because 84 per cent of customers don’t think we’re going to deliver on the promises that we make. As soon as we say we’re going to exceed them, what have we just done to that customer? They’re now expecting us to be up here, so we’ve got to be there, then we’re going to be here, it’s crazy.

What do customers want from us? The number one thing that that study found, the number one thing that we can do to build customer loyalty, to increase customer trust, is make life easier for our customers.

That’s not rocket science, is it? I’m going to tell you how we can do that.

So you know these two guys now. I’m not sure about the guy on my right, but the dude on the left is a brand man. Col, as you know, will help us to develop a brand for our business, and hopefully as you guys all realise now, brand is about much more than a logo and how something looks. It’s about the business in its entirety.

And then of course with content marketing we bring that to life. We build trust and all the good stuff we’ve heard over nearly two days now, but the problem Chris touched on earlier is that when customers then come and engage with us, if they don’t get a consistently good service that meets their expectations – because bear in mind they don’t think we’re going to do that anyway – they might not do business with us again, they might just leave.

We know that through that research, customers are four times more likely to move to a competitor as a result of poor service and because of problems with product or price. Four times more likely to move.

So you need me. You need the service design superhero. Laura promised you some superpowers today, I’m going to share some superpowers with you, I want you guys to become service designers. I want you guys to learn and think about customer experience and how we can use these principles within our business to deliver services to our customers that they’ll want to engage with, time and time again.

Service design is a new concept, but it’s actually grounded in good old common sense stuff, dealing with people the way we’d like to be treated ourselves, and the language we use a lot of the time is customer experience, but it’s actually grounded for me in the principles of service design.

How many of you in here are designers, out of interest? Two, three. By the time we leave today, you’re all going to be service designers, you’re all going to start to think like a designer.

I want to share with you four principles of service design, and that’s actually how we look at a service and how a service is constructed, and when I talk service, I’m thinking about anything. I’m thinking of the service of a hair salon or an architect, a golf lesson, the service of going to a doctor, a school or a nursery, the service, Chris, of a conference. Every service has these four steps and let’s go through them.

Step number one is before, and here we’re thinking about what happens before a customer engages with us, and that’s not just about content marketing, although that’s a big part of it, so we start to make those promises and build that trust, but in here we’re also thinking about, what does the customer think about our industry? What are the industry norms? What’s in their head when they come to do business with us?

When I go to the dentist and when people go to the dentist, what is it that the population generally thinks about a dentist? We’re scared of the dentist, so as a dentist, what you can do is understand that we’re all a bit nervous about going to the dentist, and design that experience to be better, to be friendlier, to be warmer, to be more welcoming. Ask your customers what they want, what would make them feel better about going to the dentist.

People bring emotional baggage with them when they come and interact with our service, and just think about that and understand that. Imagine what that emotional baggage is for your industry, and do something about addressing it.

The second thing is beginning. We don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and the way that someone starts the relationship with your business will determine the longevity and profitability of that relationship. Just think about yourself, we’ll pick on EE again, you have a bad start with a service provider like that, it’s not going to be good. You’re tied in for a contract and at the end of two years, you’re off, you’re not going to hang around.

Make sure if your business is that kind of business, make it easy, make it slick. Make it really easy for people to do business with you, and when we get into the guts of the service, what we call the during stage, there are two phases to this. The first is what we call the planned event, so what’s everyone expecting to happen, and just make sure that it does, and it’s smooth. Remember, people want things to be easier, so how can you make it easy for them?

The second and more important thing I think are what we call the unplanned events, so what do we do when stuff goes wrong? I guess every single one of us in this room have people delivering services within our business, people are involved, they’re either coding software or doing stuff, so people are there, and we all have bad days. We’ve all had shit going on in our lives sometimes, and we don’t know, as the customer, that that’s perhaps happened, but it means that things can go wrong.

I think it’s just a case of accepting stuff will go wrong, so from a design point of view, what I want you to think about is what do we do when that happens, how do we deal with it, you can’t sit and think about every single situation, but just have a plan for what you will do and how you will react to it.

The other thing to think about is what happens when your customers’ details change, so if they move house, if they change their mobile phone number, if they change their email address. These are relatively easy things to change, you can deal with them, just have a system, have a process to address that. The hard bit is what happens when someone dies and they’re a customer of yours, and I’ve certainly had experience of stuff being sent out to a relative who’s died. That’s not good, so don’t do stuff like that, make sure you’ve got a process to deal with that.

The final stage is the after stage, and that can be about how you invoice your client, how they pay you, make it as easy and smooth and seamless as possible. If they never come back to deal with you again, if you still make that exit for them a positive one, then they might tell people, they might refer business to you. They might go somewhere else, try it and find out, do you know what, the grass isn’t greener on the other side. Make it easy for them to come back, don’t make them feel bad about leaving.

The most important thing I think is this. Design is about shoes. It’s about learning to stand in your customer’s shoes – so I’m being slightly facetious – and seeing things from their perspective. Just imagine if DPD did that, or Yodel. Their businesses would be completely different, they’d be transformed.

Actually at the end of the day, design is really about people, and the people with most insight into how we do what we do are often not the people sitting round the management table, so if you’re going to take anything away today, what I want you to take away is involve your people, involve your customers in that dialogue, understand how they feel, ask them, like most people don’t do this, but what I find when I do this with my clients in my business, is people want to tell me stuff. People love to be asked, they love to feel valued.

So what can you do to put your brand up there in lights? Have a think about brands that do this well. What brands come into your minds when I talk to you about this kind of stuff? Who does this well? Buffer, a really good brand, and they do incredibly well, they manage that really well. Rapha, it’s a cycling brand, and Rapha do this incredibly well, don’t they? You fall off your bike, rip your shorts, send them back, they give you a new pair. These are 160 quid a time, people fall off their bikes just to get new shorts.

Okay, so we know some brands and stuff that we can do, so my challenge, my gift to you is you all might have a superpower that you can leave here with, you’ve now got the power of service design, you can start to think about things as a designer. Think about the detail, think about the tiny little stuff that you can do that will make your customers’ lives easier, and then start to do it consistently time and time again.

You will build what are already good businesses into great businesses.

Thank you.


  1. […] Read and see it at the Source: Alasdair McGill – Why content marketing is pointless without service design – CMA Live 2… […]