5 Tips to Increase Motivation and Deliver Great Service

How service design boosts your business

Why do some services touch our hearts? While others leave us with a cold impression… Why do some customer experiences feel special for days? While others are immediately forgotten…

Through years of working on collaborative processes and designing new services, I’ve learned that motivation is the key to every great service. It works on 2 different levels:

  1. If a service answers the motivations of its customers, it will return more business value to the provider.
  2. If a service is delivered by motivated people, it will be incrementally improved and grow even more valuable over time.

Companies like Disney and Airbnb have understood this very well. They design services that customers love, but they also deeply engage their own people in the process of creating and delivering them. As a result these firms have seen tremendous business growth years on end and have developed an innovative company culture that inspires others worldwide.

When provided with the right tools, empowered employees resolve customer issues more efficiently, extend the customer experience, and often find themselves more engaged in their work.

The secret to their succes is easy:

  1. Motivated customers result in more business growth.
  2. Motivated teams will lead to better service improvements.

The execution of this strategy is of course much harder…

Understanding customer motivations requires time and the right methods to gather valuable insights. Creating an environment for innovation is a very difficult quest on its own. Not one that many organisations succeed in…

Luckily there is guidance to be found in psychology. And the best place to start, is by looking at how motivation works…

What is motivation?

Motivation is not an easy thing. It’s complex because it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. What motivates me is not the same thing that motivates you. And what motivates me today, might not be the same thing that motives me tomorrow.

Motivation is a complex thing. Organizations should be prepared to keep investing in time and processes to understand how it evolves over time and by context.

Motivation evolves over time and in different contexts, but what is certain is that motivation is a force that makes us do things. It’s the reason why we make choices. It’s a ‘motive’ that prompts us to act in certain ways.

The important question then is: “What triggers it?”

Psychology divides motivational triggers into two categories: ‘extrinsic’ and ‘intrinsic’. Most motivators sit within the first group and they actually work counter-intuïtive. We often do things just for the sake of getting external rewards. We make choices because a bigger group of people does so too.

A lot of products and services use extrinsic triggers to stimulate people into completing profiles or making repeated visits. By giving people feedback and rewarding them for progress they stimulate human behaviour that’s beneficial to the organisation.

Linkedin motivates customers to complete their profiles by providing extrensic rewards and challenges to them.

Other motivators are more profound. These motivators are called ‘intrinsic’ because they fulfil needs that sit within our personal selfs. They compensate us in ways external rewards can not and deliver a much longer lasting satisfaction.

Take for instance the story of Jimmy Wales. He founded Wikipedia from an ambition to have free knowledge available for free minds all the time. As his service grew successful over the years Jimmy could have easily turned it into a multibillion dollar business. But he chose not to and instead went for intrinsic rewards that meant much more to him…

“I have a fantastic, amazing life where, you know, my work feels meaningful to me in a way that almost nothing else could. So yeah it’s great.” — Jimmy Wales

My point is that not every motivator is as strong as the other. Extrinsic rewards tend to move people effectively, but it’s intrinsic motivation that satisfies us in the long run. Every good motivational system needs a combination of both to work, but mind that it’s intrinsic motivators that build the true bonds with customers. Just look at how Apple succeeded in becoming the first 700 billion dollar company by addressing people’s wishes to ‘Think Different’.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.”

Designing intrinsic rewards

If intrinsic motivation is such a strong force, how can we design for it?

The most respected psychological research about motivation — the self-determination theory — tells us that all human beings have 3 shared psychological needs in terms of intrinsic motivation.

The needs are the following:

  • Belonging — A goal to believe in. A community to feel part of.
  • Autonomy — Freedom to take own choices of action.
  • Mastery — The feeling of making progress. To achieve things.

When designing motivational services I always keep them strongly in mind. They are guiding principles for me to make the right design decisions and use the most effective collaborative processes. I constantly question my work on them:

  • Does the team have a shared goal they believe in?
  • Are they able to collaborate effectively and freely?
  • Are our designs empowering people to extend the customer experience?
  • Do our messages speak out to our customer’s hearts?
  • Are we helping customersto achieve their true goals? Or are we just rewarding them extrinsically?

Designing for motivation is a quest to discover the hidden motives of people and to then provide the right triggers and environments for it. Remember that motivation always works on 2 levels in a great service. It provides a rewarding experience for customers, but it also empowers the delivery team to collaborate and improve the service over time.

“Businesses often forget about the culture, and ultimately they suffer for it because you can’t deliver good service from unhappy employees. “ — Tony Hsieh
Service is delivered by people. Good experience design makes a huge difference, but you need happy employees to grow and extend upon it.

5 Tips to get you started

Motivational design can be a huge feat to start with, but it’s by working in small steps that you make big progress.

At Knight Moves we use design thinking methods, the power of play and a lot of customer interaction to help organisations on the path to great motivational services. We believe that by triggering the creative and collaborative potential of people, organisations will find an intrinsic energy source to change and improve their services.

Here are some tips and learnings from our own projects that can help you start with motivational design:

1. Connect with customers — a lot!

With all the data available to us, we often forget to personally connect with people. Talk with customers. Actively. Get out there!

All to often I see people ‘study’ their customers — like a rare species to be analysed from a far. People tend to believe they know their customer’s motivations, but in most cases they are only speaking from assumption.

Invest enough time and effort to do field research. Involve customers closely in workshop and feedback sessions. Make sure that interaction always happens in person.

Remain in touch with the customers throughout the whole project. They’re a very valuable part of the team.

Make sure to connect with your customers and meet with them often enough to understand their context and motivations.

2. Design journeys, not endpoints

Motivations change over time and by context. Design accordingly!

Factor in the impact of change in all your concepts and designs. What do new customers expect? What will recurring ones need? What’s the impact of doing an action 3 times in a row? What’s the impact of doing it 333 times? How can we support different contexts?

Make sure to create journeys of both the customer and the employee experience. See how they relate to each other and look for opportunities to boost the sum of the parts.

Design journeys to see how motivations of customers and employees evolve over time.

3. Make experiences feel effortless

Friction instantly frustrates.

Customers feel lost if they are faced with an abundance of irrelevant information. People hate it when time ticks away for no reason. Employees lose motivation if they don’t have the the right tools to do their job.

Take away all ‘white noise’. Aim for simplicity in your designs. Automate as much as possible. Give employees easy, but powerful tools that allow them to extend the customer experience.

Simplicity design is a very powerful way to remove frictions which lead to demotivation.

4. Tell great stories

Use metaphors and storytelling to trigger intrinsic motivation in the hearts of people. Let customers and employees feel the stories that unite them by making them real.

Don’t be too specific or elaborate in your designs though. Always leave something open for people to interpret and fill in for themselves.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world can not be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart” — Helen Keller
Stories appeal to people on an intrinsic level and are able to carry a lot of complex meanings in a densified form.

5. Less talk, more disco!

Working on motivation can be an immersive thing. You’ll spend a lot of time talking to people and investigating their contexts. Each interaction gives you new insights. Take time to understand things right, but don’t forget that making tangible progress is a very important motivator as well.

Try out different service prototypes early on with customers and employees.

Start doing. Ask for feedback.

That’s the way to improve.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing” — Walt Disney
By running service prototypes with both customers and employees, you’ll create involvement that leads to progress.


By investing time and energy in deeply understanding the relationships and motivations of people, organisations can deliver great services. If you match good experience design with the right internal work structures to empower employees truly amazing things will happen.

Then we see the rise of services that customer’s love.

We see services that return value to a business.

Again and again.