Smart Personalisation Service from Burberry

In ‘The Future of Shopping; from high-street to iStreet’  the Daily Telegraph reports on the changing face of shopping with many customers now using high street shops as show rooms where they can view, try on, get the look and feel of products before actually buying on-line.  The mix of services between the on-line world and the high street is a difficult one for retailers but there is no doubt that retail services are changing.

Burberry has not hesitated and is leading fashion retailers in service innovation, with ‘direct-to-buy’ offering fashion direct from the catwalk. A powerful mix of e-commerce and social media strategies enables shoppers to see the new season catwalk show through live streaming and to order personalised versions of clothes and handbags within minutes of seeing them. The New York Times reported in February that the 2013 Autumn show:

. . . was streamed live on Burberry.com, numerous media sites, the Burberry Facebook page and Twitter (a first, Burberry believes). There were 1,500 seats in the specially built show space in Kensington Gardens in London, but the audience potentially was more than 19.3 million, the number of Burberry’s followers across all digital platforms.

When the buy-direct service first started in 2010 it took six months to deliver the catwalk clothes to the customer but now Burberry has reduced this to eight weeks for a specific range, making the acquisition all the more exciting for the customer.  Trench coats being the first in line for the latest made to order smart personalisation service.

Burberry offers a truly innovative approach to delivering customer service, offering not only e-commerce and social media experience but also increasingly immersive content-rich experiences for the customer.

Is it successful?

Burberry plc reports that it :

….continued to advance its leading position on social media in the luxury sector. and …In 2011/12, Burberry’s revenue was £1,857m – a 23% underlying increase on the previous year.

Not only is it successful it is also an excellent example of service innovation.

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How many workmen does it take to repair a leak? Public sector and systems thinking

This remarkable example of innovation concerns Portsmouth City Council’s housing management service and the organisation of repairs on its housing stock. The council provides social housing to over 17,000 tenants and as you can imagine that also involves responsibility for an awful lot of repair work and repair workers.

Repair worker

From a tenant’s point of view if a repair needs doing on your council house such as a leaking roof or a faulty heating system, you want the repair to be carried out in one visit , at a convenient time, and you want it fixed properly i.e. for repair workers: “ to do the right repair at the right time”. Not unreasonable!

Alarmingly, the start to finish time for a repair was a lengthy 24 days, and some repairs required 4 or more visits before the job was complete. Despite tenants complaining bitterly about the service, “the service was praised by inspectors” and was meeting government targets and budget constraints.  This was achieved by:

  • fragmenting a single job into many smaller jobs and setting targets at this level
  • patching up problems rather than allowing tradesmen to fix the root cause.

This emphasis on short term targets contributed to a loss of focus on the fundamental purpose of the repair system and a major re-think was needed.

Systems Thinker John Seddon and his colleagues worked with the council staff and their contractors to enable them to think about the repair management service as a whole:

  • What is its purpose?
  • Who are the people involved?
  • What are the processes?
  • How should the service be measured?

. . . and most importantly how do the people, processes and structures relate to each other?

. . . and how should they work together to achieve the purpose of the system?

general concept of “system” underpinning systems thinking (Schoderbek et al., 1990)

Using the knowledge gained the council set about a major re-design of the service placing the tenant at the centre within an idealised three step process:

  1. Ensure access to property
  2. Diagnose the problem
  3. Complete all necessary repairs

Tradesmen diagnose the problem and decide on the best way to solve it, and all necessary materials are brought to the property to complete the repairs i.e. “to do the right repair at the right time”.

As a result the start to finish time for repairs has been reduced from 24 days to 7 days, over 90% of jobs are completed right first time and a customer satisfaction rating of 99% achieved.

The innovation illustrated by this case is one of a public sector organisation adopting a new way of thinking that fundamentally affects how they operate. The Council’s housing management service took the bold step of examining the way they work at present, seeing the shortcomings and being ready to adopt a totally new holistic and systems way of thinking.

For further information about the Portsmouth City Council Case see below, all quotations are taken from this article:

A Systems Approach to Housing Repairs, by John Seddon and Brendan O’Donovan

Service Science: Research and Innovations in the Service Economy, 2012, Case Studies in Service Innovation, Part 4, Pages 91-94

Also see the video at the end of this interesting article, it illustrates the problem faced by the repair service using a different case i.e. repairing holes in roads:

 “We were so busy, we just didn’t know” Seeing the whole system always comes as a surprise”

Reference for  General Concept of “System” (Schoderbek et al., 1990)

Schoderbek, P. P., Schoderbek, C. G. and Kefalas, A, G. (1990). Management Systems: Conceptual Considerations, (4th ed), Irwin, Boston.

Comments or observations are most welcome. I would love to hear of similar cases.

Involving Customers in Service Innovation

In this case study a medium-sized Finnish insurance company recognised that customers can be more than just recipients of innovation delivered by the provider; they can also be sources of innovation. Decisions about new services previously based on systematically gathered information were felt to be too product oriented so working with a team of researchers (details below) the company sought to develop a new approach that would involve customers in the innovation process. Several insurance services were  used to test the new process model.

customers not so happy! but can they innovate?

One of the test cases chosen was to develop next generation health insurance that would better correspond to the changing needs of healthcare. A series of workshops and a range of techniques were employed including:

  • Building a future-oriented concept of health insurance: two separate workshops were held; one for a group of customers, one for a group of company representatives and the differences in outcome compared.
  • Using readymade cards that illustrate twelve trends related to healthcare and asking customers to select three trends that they thought most important for health future insurance.
  • Concept formulation using physical materials (modelling pastes, sticks etc) to create a 3D model of the next generation health insurance for the year 2025.

The researchers noted that; “Interestingly, there was a clear difference in the ways in which the customers and the company built their concepts. The former concentrated on modelling their health related social network, whereas the latter built a network including customers as ‘members’ but controlled by the company”

One outcome from this process of ideation was that the workshops provided ‘completely new information’ for the company bringing forward issues that cannot be reached through more traditional methods.  Issues included:

  • “The versatility of customer situations in relation to the service
  • The ignorance of customers about the content of available services
  • The importance of solutions instead of detailed pieces of information
  • The significance of customer care throughout the lifespan of customership
  • The decisive role of service encounters when customers evaluate the success of the service”

So can customers help innovate or be part of the innovation process?

In this case customer involvement enabled the insurance company to gain valuable insights into customer issues which may influence the design of future insurance services.

Further information about the case and the resulting service innovation process model can be found in Involving Customers in the Service Innovation Process.

The researchers involved in this Case were:

Marja Toivonen, Director, VVT Technical Research Centre, Finland

Mari Holopainen and TiinaTuominen , BIT Research Centre, Aalto University, Finland

Virtual World Graduation Service

Highly immersive virtual worlds such as Second Life present an exciting opportunity for innovation in the delivery of educational services. Life-like avatars of students meet in a purpose build environment, their movements are controlled remotely from a desktop and their voices are the students own voices transmitted using headsets.

The virtual world graduation service involved students on a part-time Executive MBA programme at Manchester Business School who were physically located throughout the world. All were senior executives and travelling to the UK for a graduation ceremony was not cost effective, designing a graduation ceremony in Second Life proved an attractive and fun alternative. The ceremony took place in

the ante-room

 two ‘rooms’ developed for this purpose: a small ante-room where delegates and guests arrive, are welcomed, and to which they can return at the end of the award ceremony; and the main ‘hall’ where the actual ceremony was conducted (the Whitworth Room). Designs by Corporation Pop. Life-like avatars and gowns were provided appropriate to the status of the dignitaries who included the Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Business School. The first event was held in late 2009 and has been repeated twice a year since. As for future innovations in education, virtual world technology needs to be improved, avatars need to be easier to manipulate; scalability improved; and a gaming standard of sophistication achieved. If you have any experience/comments of VW in delivering educational services I would love to hear from you.Further information about this case can be found in Using Virtual World Technology to Deliver Educational Services

The Whitworth Room

dignitaries in procession