Pubs were familiar places
A trip to the pub before the COVID-19 lockdown was a familiar experience for many people. Walk into almost any pub and you would expect to see and do the same things, e.g. find somewhere to sit, head to the bar for a drink, look for signage when needing a trip to the toilet.
An important part of why this familiarity exists is that the ‘front of house’ elements of the service pubs provide are fundamentally similar and, therefore, recognisable. However, since pubs have reopened, they are not operating in the same way anymore. They have had to go through a rapid process of redesigning their service in order to adjust to the issues that COVID-19 has created.
It takes a lot knowledge and expertise to do service design well, let alone when you’re having to redesign a service in a short period of time to cope with an unprecedented event (such as the pandemic). Therefore, pub staff are facing a significant service design challenge and some will fare better than others when changing how their business operates. This point was made clear to me during my first trip to a pub since lockdown started…
The redesigned pub service
Before even going to the pub, a friend had told me that I had to book a table rather than just turn up, as per usual. That was done easily via the online table booking service the pub had setup on its website (a good start to the new service).
When arriving at the pub, the pathway to the beer garden had been split down the middle to keep the flow of people heading into the pub separated from the people leaving. Hi-visibility tape was spaced at two metre intervals to help maintain social distancing while queuing to speak to a staff member. When reaching the front of the queue, there was a hand sanitiser dispenser fitted to a railing with a sign asking customers to cleanse their hands before entering the pub. I was greeted by a member of staff and escorted to my table. So far, so good, considering none of these parts of the pub-going experience would have happened pre-lockdown
Once I got to my table, I was provided with a sheet of paper which explained that I had to download an app to order all of my food and drink and that everything would be brought to my table.
It was at this point where I started to think about the problems with this process:
- Only smartphone users will be able to get any food or drink (about 20% of adults in the UK don’t own a smartphone – this increases to 60% for people over 65 years of age)
- It relied on me having access to a debit/credit card, or knowing the details of my card, as I had to enter my payment details into the app
Fortunately, I’m a smartphone user and had my debit card with me but neither of these requirements were communicated to me before I had arrived at my table. If I hadn’t met either of these criteria then the trip to the pub would have been cut disappointingly short.
The pub staff had clearly thought through how they could serve customers while maintaining adequate levels of safety for both staff and customers. The staff were also clearly trying their best to deliver a good customer experience despite the novel and difficult circumstances.
However, with the benefit of hindsight, I suspect that a good service designer would have identified the issues around the mandatory use of an app and identified ways to mitigate the problems, e.g. advise customers at the point of booking a table that they will need to use an app to pay for food and drink.
Every business that is opening up its doors to members of the public will face a similar service design challenge, which highlights the importance of knowing how to do service design well.
Want to know more about service design?
If you would like to gain an understanding of service design principles and how to apply them using a range of tools, then our Fundamentals of Service Design course is a great place to start.
Alternatively, we regularly work with clients on service design projects and would be happy to discuss how we can support you, so feel free to get in touch.