Don’t Spoil the Magic of Flower Delivery!

As service designers, we should work hard to not only design great touchpoints, but also to sometimes eliminate them.

Last August, I returned to work while my wife and kids were still vacationing out of town. For my birthday, they sent me flowers. The flowers were a lovely surprise and brought me a wonderful sense of being connected although physically, we were in different places.

However, the service designer in me couldn’t help but make a few reflections on the delivery of the flowers seen from a service experience point of view.

What an ideal flower delivery should be like

To start off: What is flowers for your birthday all about? What is it about a flower delivery that makes us happy? For me, the answer is: The moment of surprise. Suddenly, I get flowers from someone who is apparently thinking of me! Someone has taken care of all the mundane stuff and the flowers simply show up at my door. It yields a feeling of personal connection, despite the physical distance.

That’s how I’d like it to be. But my experience was different.

Example of actual flower delivery

One day at work, I received a phone call:

”Hi, we have a flower delivery for you, and I wonder where to deliver it?”

The thoughts raced through my head. What? From whom? Why? Is there a mistake? Are they coming now? Are they delivering to my job? What is on my schedule? How long will I be at work today?

The flower delivery guy continued: ”We will deliver the flowers tomorrow; will you be at home?” That’s when I got it. The next day was my birthday.

Of course it was nice to know that I would receive flowers on my upcoming birthday. But the moment of surprise on my birthday was gone.

Instead of being the happy receiver of a surprise flower delivery, I was now involuntarily involved in an administrative issue.

It all seemed unnecessary, especially considering that my wife had clearly stated that the flowers were a birthday gift that could be placed outside our door if no one was home.

Looking at the delivery from a service design POV

Translated to service design lingo, I was now involved in a ‘customer journey’, having ‘touchpoints’ with the deliverer. But I was only really interested in one touchpoint: receiving the flowers.

No matter how nice the flower delivery man was during the phone call. It didn’t matter to me how well that touchpoint was designed — it still spoiled the magic.

As service designers, we should not only design great touchpoints, we should work hard to eliminate everything but the essentials.

On arrival, the flowers were nicely packaged. But on the top of the wrapping, there was a note attached. On closer inspection, it looked like instructions. For me? Did I need to do something? What? I read through the bureaucratic text and realized that it contained instructions for the deliverer as well as information about what to do in case of complaints.


Another involvement in the administration of the service. Another part of the magic gone. I had to mentally switch back to the joy of the beautiful gift.

Finally, a nice little card was attached, with a handwritten greeting from the sender. From my family; lovely! But mind you, I have been married for a decade: I know my wife’s handwriting. The greeting was definitely written by someone else. Yet another part of the magic vanished.

To be clear: I really appreciated the flowers! I have exaggerated my criticisms in order to emphasize my points as a service designer.

Service design takeaways

In conclusion, I’d gained three takeaways from my birthday flower delivery.

  1. Find, augment and protect the essence — the magic of a service. Don’t allow for any minor flaws to spoil the magic.
  2. One topic in the discourse of digital interfaces is ’no interface’. As service designers, we should consider ’no touchpoint’. The recipient of a flower delivery should have no other touchpoint than just receiving the flowers. Period.
  3. Don’t fake it. A handwritten, personal note from my wife should — always and without fail — be written by my wife.

– Johan Dovelius, Head of Service Design

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