Designing Service Evidence for Positive Relational Messages
Kathy Pui Ying Lo


This article discusses relational messages in the design of service evidence based on insight gained from empirical research. Photo elicitation and in-depth interviews were the key research methods used in understanding hotel guest experiences for design opportunities. The findings reveal that customers take service evidence and physical cues in the servicescapes to interpret both intended and unintended relational messages that communicate the service providers' perceptions about customers. Customers notice service evidence and judge whether service providers: (1) Care about their customers; (2) Consider customers as important; and (3) Trust customers. Their interpretations of relational messages influence their emotions and service experiences. In addition to face-to-face service encounters with staff, customers' interactions with service evidence are also important in shaping service experiences. Here, a framework is proposed to offer design strategies that convey positive relational messages in service evidence in terms of care, importance, and trust. This framework highlights three design strategies and three specific design emphases. The discussion draws on concepts and techniques including tangibility of service, customization, and empathic design. Examples are given to demonstrate the contexts in which the strategies can be applied, including retail, banking, transport, and hospitality. Key design questions and challenges for each strategy are also discussed.

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