America and Britain

Why is it that in America, where service expectations run so high and where people complain in an instant over bad service, they have no real service design industry to speak of? Whilst in the UK, where people will traditionally suffer in silence before complaining, we have a burgeoning little service design sector?

Hypothesis 1: the US have other techniques for engineering good service, less reliant on design thinking

Hypothesis 2: US service expectations have been invading the UK for years, leading to a greater demand for good services and reduced fear to complain when they are bad.

Hypothesis 3: it’s all about government funding, and right now the UK government is banging on about customer-centred public services, hospitals having to measure patient happiness and seeking out sexy techniques to help.

I’d be interested in the views of others in this.

3 thoughts on “America and Britain

  1. Good question Joel.

    As one of only two firms in the U.S. focused exclusively on service design, I have thought a lot about this. I think it comes down to two reasons.

    First, it’s about your reason #3, government structure. Taxes are higher in the UK (and Europe in general) and therefore there is more sensitivity to “giving them their money’s worth” from the respective governments.

    The other issue is that I think the U.S. in general is much more of a “throw away” society than Europe, and that translates into keeping customers. American companies have a maniacal focus on “getting” customers but seem to not really care about “keeping” customers. The attitude seems to be, “we’ll just get some more.” This same attitude can be seen in the usage and waste of gasoline, food, electronics, etc. We are a waste-based economy and unfortunately, that includes customers.

    Our goal here is to try to find the enlightened few clients who actually want to change this.
    ; )



    1. joelbaileyuk

      Great to have your comments Bob. It’s a peculiar situation isn’t it. I think your “throw away society” angle is an interesting one. Maybe in the UK we’re a bit more parochial by nature. We’re a small island race after all, so you generally had to serve the community you were given. Whereas in the US you’ve had a much stronger sense of manifest destiny – a culture of the frontier (pun intended??) where, if things aren’t working out, you could up sticks and move on someplace else. I think there might be something in that.


  2. By the way, we actually did a video about this very idea (my rant) above. Go here:
    and choose the video entitled, “First, Fix the Holes in Your Buckct.”


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