Archive for January, 2010

Sustainability stars. Celebrating innovations at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic winter games

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

In order to promote sustainable innovations in relation to the 2010 Winter Olympics held in Vancouver, the organisers decided to create a ‘Star program’ recognising and rewarding its contributors with a star. In order to gain such a star, contributors must meet the following criteria:

  • demonstrate two or more sustainability features (a notable social, economic and/or environmental benefit)
  • be directly linked to the 2010 Winter Games
  • produce a measurable outcome
  • meet one or more of the following:
  • new to the 2010 Winter Games region
  • new to the Olympic or Paralympic Games
  • significantly scaled up through the 2010 Winter Games and/or
  • unique collaborations were created to introduce the innovation

So far, 64 stars have been rewarded. Read more at here.

Watch this Video for more information

Hjerting Beach Hotel – Looking Backwards in Order to Progress

Monday, January 11th, 2010

At the West coast of Jutland facing the North Sea a beautiful and cozy hotel adorn the scenery; Hjerting Beach Hotel (Hjerting Badehotel). The beach hotel is situated in beautiful surroundings, close to both water and nature experiences.

The buildings have served as a beach hotel since 1914. In 1969 the hotel was renovated and renamed Hotel Hjerting with emphasis on festivity; dining and dancing and little attention was paid to overnight stays and tourism. In the early 1980’ies the hotel began focusing on overnight offshore workers and seminars.

Since 1980 the hotel has gone through several different renovating projects. Room capacity was expanded four times peaking at 48 rooms. The many renovation projects resulted in a combination of many different styles and a clear concept was not implemented.

In 2007 the hotel management contemplated future possibilities and initiated an extensive renovation that completely changed the hotel concept. The hotel went back to its roots and was relaunched as a traditional Danish beach hotel (Hjerting Badehotel) with a clear concept, a consistent style and remarkable and outstanding rooms.

However, the beach hotel also made some untraditionally and unexpected changes and instead of expanding the room capacity similar to the other hotels in the area, the management decided to replace rooms with other facilities, and the hotel went from 48 to 42 rooms in order to enhance the focus on the individual guests. Offering their guests more experiences a wellness center, a gourmet restaurant and a gourmet boutique was included in the project as a part of the beach hotel.

Hjerting Badehotel Hjerting Badehotel 1

Hjerting Badehotel 2 Hjerting Badehotel 3

Such renovation and change of hotel concept brought new challenges. Firstly, the renovation itself was a huge challenge, as the hotel was not closed down during the renovation process and stayed in operation. Moreover, the staff began to express their uncertainty, which was unexpected to the management and therefore the most difficult challenge. Some staff members chose to quit their jobs, as they felt insecure and did not believe in the new concept. Therefore, new employees, who believed in the project and who could actively face the challenges of a new concept and work with it, had to be hired.

With the renovation, the consistent concept and added experiences the beach hotel aimed at attracting new target groups.  The hotel now aims at attracting the quality minded and mature guests, who seek peace and quiet in open and beautiful environments and who travel without kids. On the other hand the hotel also lost some of the conference and meeting quests due to the new concept. The management concludes that wanting to serve everybody ends up in servicing nobody properly.

The comprehensive changes have already proven to be the right way into the future with occupancy rates higher than ever.

The case of Hjerting Beach Hotel shows that being innovative does not necessarily entail completely new ways of thinking. Instead of searching for new, trendy and advanced solutions the hotel management looked backwards in order to progress. They went back to the roots and rediscovered the atmosphere and coziness of the old beach hotel. This way of being innovative has resulted in untraditional changes and a consistent concept, which attracts new, higher paying clientele, which in the end create a healthy business.

Ordering coffee at Starbucks

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

In average, Starbucks opens six new coffee outlets every day, and there are more than 10.000 shops in 39 countries.

Part of the Starbucks concept includes that users have the option to choose from a wide range of beverages, which includes coffee, available in various sizes, flavours, preparation forms, etc. Accordingly, customers can order Moccachino, Iced Venti no-water Americano and Double Tall nonfat extra hot Cappuccino – and many other specific coffees.

Service innovations have been prevalent to ensure that orders are executed properly and effectively. Starbucks assistants at the counter are trained to take the orders in a very specific way. The philosophy behind the processes is that it will be even more accurate and efficient if all users can order their coffee the same – standardized – way every time. Therefore Starbucks tries to “educate” the guests. The education partly takes place by distributing a small pamphlet – “Make It Your Drink” – with a guide on how to order coffee at Starbucks. And partly by ensuring that staff repeat the guest’s order, so that the guest can hear it. Not the way the guest submitted the order, but in the “correct” way and in a voice seeking to be “friendly patronizing”. The effect is that most guests, after some time, try to avoid a “reprimand” by giving the order in exactly the way that supports the Starbucks service process. For some guests using the Starbucks terminology develops into a game or sport, and when succeeding, it is a small victory that can be celebrated.


This Starbucks solution is a clever and elegant way to motivate the users to help to streamline the service process. The possibility of unsolicited customer created variance is reduced, but still without compromising quality. However, it is a prerequisite that Starbucks staff is able to handle the process in friendly and service oriented manner. It is a subtle balance to leave a “reprimand” without the quest feeling any offense.

An order “for here, grande, skinny vanilla, extra hot, latte” will therefore result in approx. 45 centilitre espresso with extra hot milk and sugar syrup with vanilla flavour served in a ceramic mug to be taken at the Starbucks coffee shop… Enjoy your coffee.

This innovation case has been submitted by Søren Bechmann. You can find other cases and description of the service design discipline in the book “Servicedesign” by Søren Bechmann published by Gyldendal Akademisk (2009 in Danish). See also

Service design in Copenhagen airport: improving security and staff working conditions

Monday, January 4th, 2010

In 2006, Copenhagen Airport, along with all other airports around the world, was facing new and tighter rules for passenger security. For example any laptop computer had to be taken out of the bag and screened separately. The same applied to coats and jackets. Fluids could only be carried in the hand luggage, if the containers were placed in a transparent bag visible to the security staff. 

The Civil Aviation Administration put a pressure on the airport operations. A consequence was a need for almost 50 percent more personnel for security checkpoints. Overall, this created significant challenges and problems for Copenhagen Airport. Just to mention af few examples: Staff reacted with an increased absenteeism. Suddenly the airport urgently needed three times the number of plastic trays used to carry hand luggage into the screening.

Up till 2006 security checks were undertaken in two different terminals.  Sometimes travelers had to wait in long queues at the security checkpoint in one terminal, and almost nobody was waiting at the other.

Moreover – and probably a natural consequence of the situation – Copenhagen Airport experienced a lot of criticism for its service levels at the security checkpoints. Employees were perceived as arrogant; they talked “past” the passengers and were in general not valued for being service oriented.

So all in all, there was a need for change in the managerial systems and procedures. The airport decided to establish an entirely new security checkpoint area. And not least, it was determined that this should be a joint project: The security staff should be involved intensively in designing and developing the new area in order to ensure the best solution. But also to “anchor” of the project well in the organization and to guarantee an acceptance from day one.

There were several objectives for the new security checkpoint area. The airport wanted to obtain a higher efficiency, generate the foundations for improved passenger-service, and simultaneously create better working conditions for the staff in a centralized location.

Copenhagen Airport

It is often recognized that passengers who do not have any reason to feel nervous, might still become be slightly upset, when they approach a security check, most often because they are not that familiar with travelling procedures. Inevitably, checks imply that security staff will get very close to the passengers, intruding the privacy zone. Passengers have to take coats and jackets off, “strangers” are checking the personal and private belongings in their hand luggage and a security officer might physically examine the passengers.

The objective of the new security checkpoint was therefore to ensure that the environment in itself did not reinforce the tenseness. In many airports, security checkpoints are placed in low-ceilinged, factory-like areas with no daylight and bad acoustics, which will not help passengers to relax. Copenhagen Airport wanted most of all the opposite. The new security checkpoint was therefore designed to be light, friendly, relaxed and quiet.

An added advantage of the new organization and design of the area is that it is easier for the security staff to identify passengers who are potentially dangerous.

Another objective was to ensure that the passengers kept the feeling of control. For that end it was important to do the check at a pace and in a sequence, where it was possible for the passengers to follow the procedures.

The new central security checkpoint area was opened in June 2007 after an investment of DKK 200 million.With 16 “tracks” the capacity was doubled. An entirely new and automated system for handling the trays for the hand luggage was installed. The system did not exist before, and besides the fact that it contributed to an increased capacity and   led to time savings, the system also resulted in a much-needed physical relief of the employees. The system can be set at different speeds, which helps passengers to maintain an overview of where their hand luggage is at any time.

As the only airport in the world, Copenhagen Airport also decided to display the current waiting time at the security checkpoints. The pressure on the security checkpoint varies according to traffic levels and it is impossible to avoid long lines at certain times during the day. But if the passengers are informed of the current waiting-time they tend to accept and handle the waiting-time in a more relaxed manner. The airport’s goal is that most of the passengers are through security in less than five minutes and that no passenger would wait for more than 20 minutes. In 2008, the average waiting time in Copenhagen Airport was 3 ½ minutes. The measurement of waiting times is based on advanced technology involving approx. 3.500 daily measurements based on Bluetooth technology in passengers’ mobile phones.

Besides engaging in innovation solutions in terms of physical environment and technology, the airport also worked intensively on “service training” of the employees. A security checkpoint at an airport is first and foremost put in place to ensure security. For that same reason a major part of the training of security personnel is to identify problems and search for weapons etc. This very strong security focus tended previously to hamper the service element. For that reason was the employees were perceived as arrogant and not able to combine security and service.

Copenhagen Airport decided to demonstrate that security and service do not have to be  mutually exclusive. A “security service concept” was therefore developed. At the heart of the concept is still security, but service elements are now added including e.g. that the employees have to focus on welcoming the passengers. Staff has been training to attentive to the individual passengers’ needs. The concept also included a new focus on the individual employee’s attitude and behaviour and on how that influenced the passenger experience.

After the establishment of the new security checkpoint, the airport has experienced improvements in several fields. The measured satisfaction among passengers at the airport has raised significantly. Satisfaction with security controls in the period 2006 to 2009 went up by more than 40%. And the new checkpoint entails that security checks now take place in a calmer and more welcoming atmosphere.

On the employee side, the new security checkpoint as well as the introduction of the “security service concept” contributed to a decrease in sick absenteeism from a very high level to and expectable one, simultaneously with a significant increase in employee satisfaction.

Søren Bechmann contributed with this case to INNOTOUR. You can find other cases and descriptions of the service design discipline in the book “Servicedesign” by Søren Bechmann published by Gyldendal Akademisk, 2010. (in Danish) See also