It's one thing to be one in a million. It's quite another to be one in 143 million -- the number of people estimated to have had their personal information compromised by a cyber breach at Equifax.This breach, which affects approximately half of adult Americans, seems all the worse because it was known to the company several weeks before it was made public; and there is the insult added to injury of several executives having sold large amounts of stock ahead of the breach being made public. (Equifax says there is no evidence the stock transactions were related to knowledge of the breach.)

Worse still, the company's response has been less than ideal. Information has been sketchy, incomplete, and confusing. A visit to the Equifax site can only tell you if your information may have been compromised.

The company tried to get people to sign away their right to sue in exchange for any compensatory services -- a plan that New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman torpedoed. Also unclear: advice about what to do next, how to protect oneself going forward and what the company was doing or going to do to notify or protect those affected by the breach.

All in all, people were experiencing what we call an "Ow moment." We have identified three important types of experiences in service design and delivery: the Ahh moment, the Ow moment, and the Aha moment.

Ahh moments come as a result of good service design, Ow moments from poor service design, and Aha moments come when businesses turn insight into action, preventing Ows and creating Ahhs.

So how do you lessen or eliminate the Ows and increase the Ahhs? And what is the mysterious alchemy by which serendipitous events become insight? Use this three-step process:

1. Identify potential Ows.

Good service design demands that you plot the steps in your customer journey from beginning to the desired, logical conclusion (when a client is satisfied, not when they leave prematurely, either in an angry huff or in abject disappointment).

Where are the potential for Ow moments? Is it a kludgy online interface that will frustrate consumers? Is it an opaque contract or user agreement? Is it front-line employees who have neither the information nor the latitude to be truly helpful to customers/clients?

Business-to-business companies need to pay particular attention to the end user--your customer's customer. Equifax's customers are banks and other credit issues, not us; we're their product. So, Equifax failed to consider our pain -- a failure that helped erase about a quarter of its shareholder value.

2. Identify the Ahh moments.

These are the things in your customer journey you absolutely have to get right -- the critical customer interactions. They are the reasons people come to you, what they expect from you, what you stake your reputation on. They are the things that make your customers exhale happily with satisfaction, comfort, and confidence because they know they are in your capable hands.

These are critical customer interactions. (Sadly, in a case like Equifax's it was the inability to meet a critical customer interaction that caused the Ow moment.) What are the things you absolutely have to get right? How have you designed your service accordingly? What do you need to do to ensure the Ahh moments.

3. Use the resources available to you to create Aha moments.

They come from studying customer data, user information, gleaning insights from frontline employees, listening to customer comments, requests and complaints, and taking appropriate action. Aha moments aren't always pretty, because they can come from failures -- and may come to your attention from angry customers and disappointed clients.

They require a willingness to admit your weaknesses, examine them, and then take corrective action. They don't all stem from failure -- maybe it's' an example of something you could do differently, or something that hasn't been institutionalized but is yielding positive results.

But to design and deliver, you have to focus on the Ahhs, the Ows, and the Ahas. Increase the first, seek to eliminate the second, and commit to the third.

Published on: Sep 13, 2017