Service Design Thinking

In a recent blog entry Life’s Too Short, I referenced the emerging field of service design that is focused on the creation of well-thought-out and thorough experiences.*

We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better. —Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon

There are myriad tools available for creating a desired user/consumer experience, including voice of the customer, process analysis and design, business process redesign/reengineering, business analysis, value stream mapping, agile design, user centered design, etc. Does service design differ in any significant way? If so, how?

This is Service Design Thinking: Basics, Tools, Cases is a good primer. The authors lay out five principles of service design thinking as their foundation:

  1. User Centered – services should be experienced through the eyes of the customer
  2. Co-creative – all stakeholders should be involved in the design process
  3. Sequencing – the service should be visualized as a sequence of interrelated actions
  4. Evidencing – intangible services should be visualized in terms of physical artifacts
  5. Holistic – the entire environment of service should be considered

This list is comprehensive and perhaps even a bit daunting. My initial impression is that it is a refinement, update, and combination of a number of tried-and-true tools or methods. A few key variations that distinguish service design from other approaches include:

  • Stronger user orientation generated by observing behavior and understanding context, not simply asking the customer what they want
  • More opportunity for flexibility and variations, rather that achieving perfection through absolute standardization
  • A focus on experience, rather than product. This may also be stated as value in use, not just an exchange of value (money for product).
  • Created together. Experiences are inherently both parties working together to create the outcome
  • Allows for experimentation, small scale production environments with soft launches and incremental deployments that include significant feedback to drive product evolution

Regardless of whether service design is truly different or just a new set of words to describe something we’ve always had, I found this book to be clear and concise. It is less theoretical and more practical in terms of basic concepts, approaches, and application. If service design emerges as the hot new thing, user/consumers will be the beneficiaries. Who cares what it’s called?

*Thanks to J Schwan for presenting this as one his three key ideas in his Fusion2015 presentation. See Service Design Slide.


Life’s Too Short

Portland has awesome street art and signage that complement the city’s reputation of being quirky, diverse, and progressive. This billboard caught my attention.

2015-04-06 11.38.15-1

All photos by Mark Baker

The exploding world of mobile apps has set a new benchmark for how technology should work. In our daily lives, there is an app for every purpose: to check the weather, get sports scores, catch up on news, read a magazine, share updates with friends, book travel reservations, shop, or track workouts. One of my favorite examples is the Amazon mobile app with its ability to dynamically scan a product or barcode.

As apps have gotten increasingly easier to use and more refined, the same progression cannot be found in the traditional software that most businesses rely on. There is usually a distinct difference between applications written from the ground up after approximately 2008 and those written earlier. Earlier applications (think airline websites, like United) have lots of functionality on single screens, require training to use, and come from a “one size fits all” mindset. Even programs that have received a “face lift” can’t compare in terms of ease of use, personalization, and multi-functionality.

New approaches (Uber, an interface to a ride service, is a perfect example) are proliferating, but lots of traditional services can’t get from here to there. Unfortunately, I think we’re going to be stuck with the legacy of these systems for some time.

Life is too short to stick with outmoded technology when there is something new and better available. Consumers will continue to gravitate to the tools they find more accessible and efficient. In an upcoming post, I will address one of the fundamental toolsets that will help us get there: service design. This holistic approach focuses on the user experience when designing process, tools and service. Stay tuned.