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Thomas A. Stewart & Patricia O’Connell  

Authorities on Service Design, Strategy & Innovation; Authors of “Woo, Wow and Win: Service Design, Strategy and the Art of Customer Delight”

Stewart, an influential thought leader on global management, and O’Connell, an expert on customer-centric business strategy, argue that today’s companies must be designed for service from the ground up. The duo introduce the emerging science of service design in their forthcoming book, “Woo, Wow and Win: Service Design, Strategy and the Art of Customer Delight,” (HarperCollins, November 2016), and provide design-led best practices for service innovation. Currently the executive director of the National Center for the Middle Market (NCMM), Stewart is well known and regarded for his ability to show executives what the new realities of a constantly shifting marketplace of ideas means in designing, managing and running organizations that keep pace with innovation and achieve sustainable growth. Before joining NCMM, he served as chief marketing and knowledge officer for international consulting firm Booz & Company (now called Strategy&), overseeing the firm’s intellectual agenda, major research projects and strategy + business magazine. Prior to that, he was the editor and managing director of Harvard Business Review for six years. Visionary in scope, Stewart’s indispensable books include, “Intellectual Capital: The New Wealth of Organizations” (Crown Business, 1998) and “The Wealth of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital and the Twenty-First Century Organization.” Translating his expertise and passion to the podium, Stewart is also a highly sought speaker. He is a 12-time participant in the World Economic Forum, and delivers lectures and seminars across the U.S. and in more than two dozen countries worldwide. Stewart is a summa cum laude graduate of Harvard College and holds an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Cass Business School, City University London.

O’Connell, currently president of Aerten Consulting, collaborates with companies to devise content strategies, develop thought leadership, and deliver new products and services for consumers of content. A 12-year veteran of, where she served as news editor and subsequently as the management editor, O’Connell has long worked with some of the world’s greatest thought leaders, including John Byrne, Marshall Goldsmith, John Kotter, Ben Heineman, Dov Seidman, and others. She is a talented, award-winning writer, and also a passionate and engaging speaker.

With author Neil Smith of the New York Times best-seller, “How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things: Breaking the Eight Hidden Barriers that Plague Even the Best Businesses,” O’Connell passionately pursues excellence in consumer services – and helps companies do the same. This, along with her conviction that service design is the path to “the better way,” were the impetus for the development of The Five Principles of Service Design and The 10 Essential Elements of Service Design and Deliver – two of the unique contributions of “Woo, Wow and Win” to the nascent business discipline of service design and innovation.

A graduate of Boston College, O’Connell has worked with such organizations as the Project Management Institute, the Association of Management Consulting Firms, Strategy&, Boston Consulting Group, Hay Group (now part of Korn Kerry), Stephens Inc., Savannah College of Art and Design and T. Rowe Price.


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Speech Topics

You’re Never Done: Design Secrets of the Master Service Innovators

The rules and best practices of innovation all come from models developed for products—even the means of measuring success. Services account for 80% of the economy—but many services businesses don’t even think innovation matters to them.

But a new science of innovation around services is emerging, grounded in the principles of service design and delivery and rolling out through industries as diverse as financial services, IT services, retail, hospitality, and even storage-unit leasing. Calling on examples from these and other industries, Tom Stewart and Patricia O’Connell show how you can design innovation capabilities into the very fabric of your business, defending, and extending your advantage over your rivals.

You will learn about four key design-led best practices that apply across the spectrum of businesses:

  • Assume you are never done. “Always be in beta” is the mindset of great service innovators.

  • Set and keep a cadence. Establishing a rhythm of new and improved offerings is especially valuable internally, since nothing concentrates the mind like deliverables and a deadline. Doing so ensures that you have a platform, process, culture, and triggers for innovation.

  • Innovate in the wild. Get out of the lab and into the world of real customers.

  • Invite your customers in – measure both the value customers receive from the innovation process and the contributions they make to it.

At Your Service: How to Use Service Design to Woo, Wow and Win Customers

For more than a century, industrial designers have been making products elegant, strong, and useful. By contrast, the design of services is in its infancy. Exhortations to become customer-centric do nothing in the absence of a service design that delivers the experience you want, to the customers you want, every time and without heroic efforts. Service design is a sustainable, repeatable way to differentiate your company from your rivals; it is a tool of strategy, not a fancy form of customer service. The design of a service – what it does and doesn’t do, the experience it creates, the value it delivers – is an essential element of the go-to-market strategy of every service business, from a coffee shop to an investment bank. Excellence in service, like quality in manufactured goods, needs to be designed in from the start, not slapped on at the end, according to Tom Stewart. Presenting a framework of 10 service-design archetypes – fundamental designs from which you can develop your own, uniquely valuable design – Stewart helps you draw your customer-experience roadmap then discover what service experiences are truly critical. He also discusses why great service should be free and why Starbucks has no business in airports.

Why the Customer Isn’t Always Right: Finding the Right Customer for Your Business

“The customer is always right” isn’t a strategy, but rather a comedy of manners born of shopkeeping etiquette in the first part of the twentieth century that has been played out (and overplayed) since. The key difference between goods and services is that goods are a fixed thing while services are services are experiential. Service providers must contend with customers who want something more or different than what they paid for: the beer drinker with champagne tastes. You must think through the different offerings you will make to different customers, and design the appropriate service experiences – that is, the ones that meet their expectations and are good for you, too.

Segmentation should start with what’s good for you (and what you’re good at), with the definition of the right customer coming out of that. Tom Stewart and Patricia O’Connell will guide you through:

  • Differentiating between a valued customer and a valuable customer

  • Understanding myths about customer retention

  • Distinguishing between quantity and quality – and knowing what’s right for you.

  • What you can learn from your “wrong” customers

  • What to consider before you say “no” to a customer – or a potential one

  • A “Customer Bestiary:” The Five Different Kinds of Customers

Service-Design Archetypes: Who Are You, and What Companies Inspire You?

Why was Netflix an inspiration for commuter airline SurfAir? What does online stylist StitchFix have in common with UPS? The commonalities in the way businesses go to market are more important than the products or services you sell and are more fundamental than the industry you are in. These embodiments of value propositions are what Tom Stewart and Patricia O’Connell call Service Design Archetypes.

Some companies are Trendsetters, like Apple and Warby Parker. Some are Classics, like the Ritz Carlton and Brooks Brothers. Companies of the same type have more to learn from each other than they do from their direct competitors. By understanding your archetype, you can:

  • Recognize which one best embodies the essence of your value proposition. Use this understanding to make that you’re expressing your identity in every customer interaction.

  • Move beyond benchmarking to become inspired by businesses outside your industry.

  • Find fresh, surprising, and useful sources of inspiration, as SurfAir did with Netflix.

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