As many fields, products, and services are becoming commoditized, it’s become increasingly important to plan and implement a great customer experience. Much of this involves planning and gauging how your business makes your customer feel. Creating those “wow” moments aligned with your strategy is key.

The role of prototyping in McDonald’s and Apple

Two key examples were explained and demonstrated in E-myth Revisited and Subject to Change: McDonald’s and The Apple Store, respectively. Both stories involve building physical prototypes of each business and refining them until they ran as smoothly and customer-friendly as possible. Steve Jobs had several versions of the Apple Store built in a giant warehouse so that his staff could test several possibilities. And whether you like McDonald’s or not, Roy Kroc worked with a prototype until he could perfect a McDonald’s business that works for franchisers.

Working on prototypes in a professional services environment

The heart of what I want to do is offer a service, and that’s a tad trickier because I don’t have a physical product or storefront to mock up and prototype. Also, offering a professional service in a creative and technical area is messy. Some efficiencies can be factored out into processes and procedures, but those same efforts can stifle innovation if taken too far.

Adaptive Path had a compelling solution to the problem of prototyping services, described in Subject to Change. They draw comics that mock up key touchpoints in the customer experience. These comics show what’s going on in the customer’s head, how the customer interacts with elements like the website and phone, and what’s going on overall in the customer’s “story.”

Balance between prototyping and execution

While this planning is helpful (and I encourage it), sometimes it’s best to jump in too. I plan on jumping in to some ideas and innovating on the fly more this year. I will try my best to plan as much as possible, but it is time for action in addition to planning and setting up all of my GI Joes.

I will be working for an actual customer or two, work with them to refine the service, all on the fly. It’ll be really tough, but if I play my cards right, much of the discovery will only need to be done a couple times.

We must balance planning and execution. Each is important, and each is really hard work. At some level, your execution is also a prototype that always needs to be refined, only if you’re willing to inspect it and improve it.

Working with both requires curiosity, insight, introspection, and creativity. Wish me luck.