Increase customer satisfaction without a questionnaire


Being the solution ‘verb’ is the holy grail of customer satisfaction - Googling, being IKEA-like, Hoovering (for those who can remember), and

Having a brand association that is imbedded in a user’s problem/solution vernacular is where the real value lies.

Customer service differentiation is about owning the solution. To do that you need a process to identify the problems.

Premier Inn’s ‘a good night’s sleep guaranteed’ is just a line, until its promise is inculcated by every customers mind when it’s backed up with the actual experience.

The challenge is that most of the time customer service is influenced by the ‘vociferous’ rather than the ‘just a little bit disappointed’ customer. Surveys collect the conscious - often needing to be remembered - elements of customer experience in a formulaic way, whilst complaint letters capture the own goals.

Customer service brands that identify and solve customer problems improve customer experience.

Take the hotel industry. How often is the exited room audited to consider what behavioural messages the customer has left us?  

In a restaurant a half-eaten plate can be a sign of disappointment. It is at least something to notice. Is it a one-off or a trend?  This isn’t about linking the person to the problem. Anonymised customers can still provide insight and feedback through their behaviour.

  • What is the measure of a good night’s guaranteed sleep?
  • What compromises or work round clues has the customer left us?
  • What are our measures of air, light, sound quality? 

Then there are the micro problems or challenges that customers face.

  • What if we supplied a cradle for cooling hair tongs?
  • Why touch the remote when we have voice activated tech?
  • Why not help customers find that glass of water in the middle of the night when the aircon has dried their mouth into a desert?

As product designers we observe human behaviour and know that not just design, but design thinking can help. 

We create objects that solve problems, but it’s our design thinking process that really helps us diagnose a better problem to fix in the first place.

Studio Make Believe extends brand engagement and consumer experience through product design and objects. 



The rules and the opportunity in trade marketing have simplified. Objects are giving brands the leg-up in demand generation.

This is not another ‘the world is changing, get ready to do something’ article. This is just a summary of our observations from the last 14 years of our work and the market it lives in, historically, trade marketing. As with all markets, the way issues can be addressed have multiplied; there are new technologies, new cultural behaviours, social expectations and new players.

Historically, we’ve worked with brands looking to standout, increase trial and their rate of sale; by creating objects for their markets often in food, drink or leisure. These briefs have remained the same. Brands who talk to us are normally already thinking differently about their route to market and how they get listings or make the most of the listings they have.

What has changed is what brands need to do to get the permission to be in their market in the first place.

The days of developing a ‘Las Vegas’ influenced totem to ‘drive visibility’ and create some ‘throw-away’ eventually-landfill tat is thankfully reducing by the second. Put it another way, the period of the field of (brand) dreams ‘build it and they will come’ sales strategy is over.

The three stakeholders of trade marketing success are now all equal partners in demand generation; the outlet management, the service professional and the consumer. Design for all three and you are in the game.

1. The outlet management

Where bars and restaurants are increasingly looking to be more authentic, genuine and contemporary they have looked to the worlds of culture and design to provide the answer. Those who create display, service or point of sale materials that are relevant and complementary are welcomed.

2. The service professional

Increasing advocacy is often made complicated. It isn’t. It’s simple, know why they like you. People like people who make their lives better or solve a problem for them. Don’t give them lots of extra things to do, make them juggle like a circus act or introduce the unnecessary. The best education is experiential and admiration is earned when you do something of value.

3. The consumer

Sheena Iyengar (the art of choosing) has already demonstrated that getting attention and aiding consumer selection are different things. Separating out the different needs and behaviours on the journey means you can design solutions to aid each.

Relevancy has always been critical for brands going way back to Stephen Kings 1963-1985 articles. But the physical environment, where they stock you, where they serve your brand, where the choice of your sale is won and lost is a sequence of connected gates, marshalled by gatekeepers, the three stakeholders listed here.

The game has simplified. Solve their issue and you can move to the next gate, fail to solve their issue and you are out of the game.

Here’s the sales pitch. We have a proven, diagnostic process that identifies problems to fix for each of the stakeholders and a design process that ties them all together. We’ve love to help you open your sales gates.

Studio Make Believe extends brand engagement and consumer experience through product design and objects. 


Premium drinks: Own the occasion, not the serve

Historically, outlets such as pubs, bars, restaurants etc., have always owned the ‘experience’ element of the customer service, so drinks brands could only go so far.

This is starting to shift. Driven by differences in consumer tastes, interests and occasions it is forcing a rethink and creating a massive opportunity for drinks brands. 

Examples of consumption fragmenting can be seen in other categories. Take TV consumption for example. Consumers can now view more specifically, relevant to their interests, tastes and occasions. 

Drinkers too are now drinking more specifically, relevant to their interests, tastes and occasions.  Variety, quantity, size, taste, frequency and occasions are all shifting, creating opportunities as the ‘one product fits all’ mass market becomes a portfolio market, of both products AND occasions.

At Studio Make Believe, we believe that objects solve problems and the problem faced by mainstream drinks who need to be able to demonstrate their adaptability or localisation to multiple occasions, is a case in point. 

The solution is part cultural and part investment. Drinks brands must embrace the changing specificity of the occasion and the context of the environment to capitalise on the opportunity and solve the problem.

This is where objects come in. 

Objects are already part of drink brands DNA. 

Whether this is branded glassware, back bar glorifiers or solutions for mixing or carriage, most of the current objects are only doing a visibility job for the brand, rather than making a tangible enhancement to the consumer experience.

Some enhancements can be universal:

  • What is the point in producing a great drink, only to have it diluted by poor quality melting ice? 
  • Why is the bartender responsible for mixing all drinks? 
  • If the average drink takes 20 minutes to consume, does the quality of the drink and the experience reduce due to the drink warming in people’s hands or because the condensation is wetting the hands, tables and clothes of those holding the drink?

Other enhancements need occasion and environment specificity:

  • What can brands do for the outlet or invest in that they can’t?
  • How could a serve become an additional occasion or course?
  • What object could be introduced that aids sharing, conversation or consumption?

There’s an abundance of parameters to enhance and play with when we consider time, sociability, volume of people, noise of the ambiance and level of conversation in terms of noise and topic. With an occasions based mentality, brands can approach the customer experience from the whole consumption, not just the serve.