Media Perspective: Agencies should take the Streetcar approach to service
A view from Russell Davies

Media Perspective: Agencies should take the Streetcar approach to service

Have you ever used Streetcar? It's a brilliant idea: cars and vans you can rent by the hour, normally based quite near you, that you can book and unlock yourself.

And better than a brilliant idea, it's a brilliant service.

It has taken something hideous and deformed like renting a car and made it seamless and smooth. Every encounter, even talking to the DVLA, is as easy as pie. It seems to have thought about every little issue you might encounter and worked out how to deal with it. (Your mileage, of course, may vary.)

It has done this because it has paid explicit attention to service design. It has actually thought about the experience of being a customer and it has actively sought to design a better version - from initial encounter to billing and problem-solving. Contrast that for a second with how it feels to be a customer of a typical creative or media agency. Consider that and shudder. And we'll come back to that in a second.

I'm writing about this because in a rare burst of almost-journalism, I thought I'd round off my third piece about interesting people entering our world by actually talking to my subject and asking him some pertinent questions. I know, I know, I'm like John Pilger or something. Don't worry, though, it wasn't too onerous, we were both at an Account Planning Group thing together. Anyway.

Max Gadney is soon to join Hall & Partners as (some title like) creative director and, given his background, you'd be forgiven for expecting him to quickly start tweaking their graphs. He is, after all, organising a conference next year called The Design Of Understanding. That's what he cares about.

He's one of the smartest thinkers I know about the visualisation of information, about how to take the mass of data we face every day and turn it into something comprehensible, useful or persuasive. And this is not about exploring the farther reaches of the PowerPoint template set or doing a quick Google Image search to bung a picture on your chart - there's real rigour and science to this.

But Max, being a smart cookie, isn't just thinking about the charts, he also muttered to me about service design - going beyond presenting the data and thinking about the experience of getting it - of being a data customer. That is a really big and interesting problem. One more agencies could do with explicitly considering.

Anyone who has spent much time in any sort of agency will acknowledge that our processes are rarely designed, they're mostly accreted. That they sometimes work out OK is testament to exceptional individuals or unusually canny founders, not to much conscious thought on behalf of the current incumbents. Maybe we should start thinking like Streetcar and redesign the way things work.