Evolving John Lewis shop concierges to better promote services to customers

Service design case study

Problem: Business needed to explore if similar experience could be delivered cheaper
My Role: Embedded service designer
My approach: Led a discovery sprint and executed 3 iterative in-store experiments
Deliverables: Workshops, concept designs, experiment plans & execution
Customers: 130+ short qualitative surveys
Results: Validated recommendations for a business case for 15 more desks


The Experience Desk is a concierge service inside many John Lewis stores which is manned by dedicated staff who aim to raise awareness and facilitate bookings for specialist services and events, such as personal styling, home design, beauty treatments, nursery advice, product demonstrations and exclusive classes.


As the embedded service designer in the Experience Desk strategy team I helped them with the following objectives:

  • Explore how the Experience Desk can better promote services
  • Explore new concepts for the Experience Desk physical design
  • Explore alternative spaces and existing shop fittings that could be repurposed to reduce costs
  • Create ‘test and learn’ in-store experiments to validate ideas
  • Key output: Make recommendations to a business case for what 15 more Experience Desks could look like

My contribution

I guided the cross functional team through a discovery sprint and 3 iterative design sprints each of which featured an in-store experiment to validate hypotheses with real customers.

The cross functional team consisted of five individuals extremely talented in retail strategy, shop operations, omni-channel journeys, business strategy and shop staff training.

Discovery sprint

Example customer interaction at an Experience Desk

Over a series of day-long workshops I helped the team explore the following question – “How might we allow the above interaction to take place in a different physical space that is cheaper to build?”

Current-state blueprinting workshop

After an initial immersion day at the Experience Desk in John Lewis Oxford, we used our contextual observations to create a current-state blueprint. This helped to align the team in how the service is delivered today.

We did a few rounds of rapid sketching to produce a quantity of ideas which we grouped and voted on.

Ideas evolution using storyboarding

We split into three teams and took the promising sketches to add more detail and improvements. We used storyboarding panels to explore:

  • Comprehension of physical space – How does the customer know they’re in the ‘experience zone’?
  • Visibility of services – How does the customer see the list of services available?
  • Storage and use of artefacts (leaflets etc) – How can staff use existing artefacts?
  • Book a service – how can staff make the booking?
Lego prototyping workshop

Each group then brought their storyboard to life using Lego as a physical prototyping tool. This allowed them to role play using toy figurines and explore how the customer interaction could play out, including awareness, open conversation, explain services, booking, goodbye.

Concept 1: “Portable screen on wheels with iPad”

Concept 1 allows for staff to be strategically positioned wherever high footfall occurs throughout the day, with an iPad to make bookings. It features a much larger screen to attract attention and has minimal storage for leaflets. It also takes up far less ‘product selling real estate’ on the shop floor, but needs access to power.

Concept 2: “Convertible dwell space”

Concept 2 repurposes dwell/event space and converts it to a focal point by adding a large double sided screen to attract from both sides. The desk acts as storage and has detachable iPads mounted to allow for bookings. The dwell space has seating for staff to sit customers while they sell services, but these can be removed when an event or demo is live.

Concept 3: “Fixed, circular desk with dwell space”

Concept 3 is a circular desk with mounted detachable iPads for bookings by staff or browsing by customers. Three double-sided screens promote services in all directions.

Costing our concepts

We invited members of the shop design delivery team to cost our three concepts by using existing shop fittings and tech that are already available to shops. We compared the costs with the current Experience Desk and concept 1 came out the cheapest.

Design sprints

The aim of our sprints were to test our hypothesis:

“We believe strategically positioning staff with clear signage in high footfall locations throughout the day will raise awareness/facilitate bookings of services more effectively than a static Experience Desk”

To answer this we needed to create an in-store experiment in the leanest way possible, and measure customers’ awareness and action.

Sprint 1: “Unmanned sign showing multiple services”

Experiment 1

We asked the shop visual merchandisers in John Lewis Newcastle to mock up a basic sign promoting services and events and we observed and intercepted 60+ customers over two days to answer a short survey.

Half the customers noticed the sign and understood it showed services and demos, but they told us it was a bit boring and bland, and needed directions.

Sprint 2: “Sign with staff showing multiple services”

Experiment 2

The visual merchandisers created a higher fidelity sign which included directions to the correct floors. We also manned the sign the entire time by staff who could welcome customers and promote the services and events.

After observing and intercepting 40+ customers over two days we found that two thirds of the customers saw the sign and staff member. Many were more informed and didn’t know about the services on offer. When asked what they’d do next many said they would visit the service area or check online.

Sprint 3: “Sign with staff showing one service”

Experiment 3

In sprint 3 we explored creating a sign with staff member selling a single service.

Through observing and intercepting 30+ customers we found two thirds noticed the sign and staff member, and found the boards visually appealing. A smaller proportion of customers found the service appealing which led us to decide that experiment 2 was the strongest.

Final thoughts

We were able to contribute to a business case with real data and demonstrate there is a lower cost and more agile alternative to the Experience Desk. However, this was ultimately rejected because it wasn’t ambitious enough to meet the brand goals, which was outside the scope of our brief.

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