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Why you should get emotional about your service processes

By Ian Crocombe

Everybody has a story to tell about their awful service experiences and social media helps make those stories freely available to all. Sometimes things seem to go wrong even when the ‘process design’ seems fine on paper and the systems are working as they should. Why does this happen?

Inevitably it’s when you introduce humans into the equation and the variation they bring to the interaction – a variation of mindset, mood or personality, requests that don’t quite fit into the way it is believed the process should work, either party (provider or receiver) feeling out of their depth, not wanting to show their lack of understanding and using a range of behaviours to hide their concerns. And of course, if the process is wrapped around a big or life-changing event the impact of human variation can become massively exaggerated.

There are two activities complementary to the often-used approaches (Lean, 6 Sigma, Systems Thinking etc) that I have found useful in addressing this real-life challenge. Without them, design is incomplete.

The first is to attempt to map the emotional journey(s) a service provider and receiver may go through before, during and after their interaction. To consider the range of mindsets, moods and personalities that come into play and to embed this thinking into the way we build our systems, training and performance improvement. Everyone has bad and good days (customers and colleagues) – how well do our processes accommodate that variability so that we maximize the chances of a repeatable, great experience. 

The second is to think about how we get to humanise our processes – no one likes to feel they’re being processed, right? With the right emotional design, we can then think about how we get our people brave enough to stand in front of our processes rather than hide behind them (computer says no) and to take ownership of the variations we know will arise.

Getting people to own the process, humanise it and empathise with customers in the moment can be a win-win for providers and customers.

Ian Crocombe | UK Business Advisors (

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