Sacred services

15 April 2014 16:03

(updated: 18 December 2016 16:09)

Sacred services

What are a Marzipan Egg and a Marzipan Pig? They are, of course, what it says they are, an egg and a pig crafted out of marzipan. However, for most Norwegians a Marzipan Egg and a Marzipan Pig are symbols that give access to the whole mesh of meaning and myth related to Easter and Christmas. It is an entry point to an experience.

The image is enough to conjure thoughts of the cyclical and familiar rituals of Easter and Christmas. From ceremonies like Christmas dinner or Easter cabin trips, to rituals like opening Christmas gifts, to artifacts like decorated fir trees and rice porridge, or oranges and Kvikk Lunsj. The smell of marzipan alone is enough to take many Norwegians to this mythological space and to all the associated emotions and feelings.

What if service touchpoints could do the same? What if services were constructed within a mesh of myths that could generate strong feelings of emotion and attachment? What if services could utilize the structures of ritual and ceremony to allow for passageways that could guide a customer through a mesh of touchpoints that delivered experiential highpoints and emotions?

Research being currently undertaken by Ted Matthews at AHO is operationalizing Ritual and Myth theory to design New Service Development tools that will attempt to recreate some of the same elements experienced by many during ceremonialised and ritualized highpoints during their year and through their lives.

Introducing the Experiential Mesh.

So how could this work for Service Design? Currently in development at AHO is The Experiential Mesh Model a new way to design and orchestrate experientially rich Services

To show how it might work in a New Service Design setting we’ll present an example of how it was used to quickly construct a new service for a purely experiential service offering in this case the imagined service surrounding the core offering of Virgin Galactic.

This exercise was undertaken very quickly to use as an example for participants in a recent workshop in Thailand run by AHO as part of research contributing to CSI. It was done very quickly and as such does not describe the detail and richness that the method potentially offers. The service experience was considered to be a transformative experience where the customer would make a rite of passage from ‘civilian’ to ‘astronaut’. The dramaturgical structure follows Van Gennep’s model of a rite of passage, namely, Separation, Liminality and Reincorporation, here described as Training, Journey and Debrief. The binding myth of the experience is ‘Journey into Space’ and what that means on a social transformation level to becoming an astronaut. Training is divided into the sequences of inauguration, medical, training, graduation.

If we zoom in on ‘Inauguration’ this is then divided into the sequential ceremonies of welcoming, reception, receiving uniform, to first briefing. The inauguration ceremony is then described with its actors, artifacts and the general dramaturgy of the event.

This exercise undertaken in just one hour shows the potential of the Experiential mesh to offer a culturally informed and emotionally rich dimension to New Service Development. A dimension currently lacking from the predominantly functional tools and processes currently being used, such as the Service Blueprint.

Ted has already been working together with Telenor and DnB to use this approach for the design of future payment solutions and will further work with CSI partners to bring the magic experiences that his work offers to the everyday experiences of banking, post and telecom. Ted hopes to complete his PhD by 2015.