Service Design

Andy Polaine Also available in audiobook: Download our app for free listening.

We've all had bad experiences when using banks, insurers, and telephone companies services, haven't we? We often feel bad and lose patience with these services. But how to solve this problem? Service design has emerged as a way to design user-oriented services, seeking to find the best way to meet customer needs. One of the goals of service design is to design services that have the same appeal as the products we love. In "Service Design: From insight to implementation," the authors show us the best practices and tips for designing champions services.

We live in the information and service age and learning how to design better services is a growing need in any organization. If you want to learn a little more about this, don't miss this microbook!

Differences between products and services

When customers buy a physical product, it is easy to assess whether they have purchased a quality- perfect product or a defective one. However, it's much harder to do this when we are talking about services, especially those that are contracts based on the chance of a future event.

Unlike products, which have physical characteristics that define a potential use, services may be abstract or even invisible.

If products require designers to think of many parts, services require systems to be designed to adapt to changing parts. Networks, organizations, and technologies evolve daily, but the service still needs to deliver robust customer experience.

Therefore, applying the same mindset from a product design to a service can lead to bad results for customers.

Service Design: a peculiar beast

Service design came from a digitally native generation, which uses network thought with ease. In this new world, the focus shifted to lean consumption and quality of life.

To meet the new consumer demands and using technology and information networks, it has become possible to simplify complex services and make them more powerful and practical for the consumer.

Traditionally, companies are responsible for creating, advertising and selling products. This historical nature made them develop the tendency to separate into specialized departments and isolated functions.

Also, companies have a vertical chain of command, which branches into departments. Division of departments makes sense for business units, but it doesn't make sense to the customer, who sees only the experience as a whole. That reflects directly on how companies design services, in many cases, with a product-creation mindset.

Often, when we talk about services, each part of the service is well designed, but the service itself, seen as a whole, wasn't. And on the other side, the client doesn't care about the individual points, but the experience as a whole.

As stated earlier, they experience services in their entirety and base their judgments on how things work together to deliver value.

Understanding people: the fundamental element

Creating services as you create products can end up generating disappointment. This is because services cannot be repaired in the same way as products. Services represent interactions between people, involving motivations, behaviors, and feelings. Therefore, understanding people is the main point of service design.

A key feature of services is that they can only create value when they are used. For example, an empty seat on a train is worthless unless it leaves the station occupied. Even in a dentist's office, nothing will happen unless the patient opens his/her mouth. Product-oriented organizations often don't see the potential of using their customers to make the services more effective.

The great missed opportunity in development happens because organizations don't think of their customers as productive assets to deliver a service, but as anonymous consumers. Most customers are keen to get the most from the services they use. So by allowing users to co-produce, suppliers can create good solutions for both.

The combination of corporate systems that store and connect a large amount of data, accessed over the internet or mobile, is transforming the way people live their daily lives. At the same time, the quality of services is affected by the complexity of connecting these systems. This combination of opportunities and problems is why service design emerged as a project-specific approach.

Today, service design is becoming a major competitive advantage. Physical elements and technology can easily be copied, but service experiences are rooted in company culture and are very difficult to replicate. People prefer to use the services they believe offer the best experiences in exchange for money. Be it a low-cost airline or a first-class experience. Some of the best opportunities are found in business models that can be shifted from a product model to a service model.

The importance of actively projecting

Since many services are almost invisible, no one cares to design them. As a result, service designers often need to make the invisible, visible. They do this by showing customers what happens behind the scenes, showing employees what's going on in customers' lives and showing everyone the use of hidden features.

The differential for any particular service is its delivery. We think of this as the service execution. Execution means the style or manner in which the service is delivered. This execution composes the immediate experiences that service users have. This "experience" is the delivery of the service to the user.

And how is the service performing? This measure should be both internal and external. The measure of external value asks how well the service is achieving the results promised to users. For example, how often does a hip surgery result in a 100% recovery? The internal value measure examines service performance for the organization. For example, do hip surgeries have cost-effective measures? This aspect of performance value is the measure of "backstage" service by the business - all of which helps to create the service experience for customers, but which they do not see.

Before projecting, you must know the user

People don't use a health care professional or a lawyer as a product. They don't consume an airline ticket or a hotel stay. Instead, individuals enter into relationships with professionals and service providers. A service is, therefore, a relationship between suppliers and consumers.

One of the most common mistakes when designing service is to forget that people are involved in a chain of events. The understanding that people are individuals and relate to one another is essential to understanding how service needs to operate. Shifting the attention of the masses to individuals allows new opportunities, and because of this, service design puts more emphasis on more qualitative methods of research. The purpose of the research is to generate knowledge about the needs and behaviors that provide a solid foundation for a productive project, which must be confirmed by prototypes and tests.

Service Design and innovation go together

Much of the service design work involves a shift from the industrial mindset to the service paradigm. In the end, the ideas that drive innovation answer the question: "Does our service make sense in people's lives? And will they find value in that? "Many service projects seek to improve an existing service, and here the findings of the surveys are different. If a service already has many customers and competitors entering the market, it can be assumed that people understand how the service is used and what its value. In these cases, the focus is on discovering service failure points and opportunities to improve the experience.

However, people interact with services through different channels and in different situations that often include interactions with others. Context is critical for gathering information about people's interactions with touch points. From the point of view of a service provider, we need to understand how the different touch points work together to form the experiences. So try to research with users in the situations where they would use the service.

Understanding research tools

Focus groups can be defined as a qualitative research technique, derived from group interviews, which collects information through group interactions. They are structurally problematic because each member only has a few minutes to speak and even the short interactions are influenced by social pressures. In contrast, in-depth interviews offer more valuable insights. Interviewees should never be corrected about something they are explaining, even if they are completely wrong. Instead, ask them how and why they know what they are saying, and it will reveal much more to you.

Consumers can say what they think you want to hear. Therefore, consumer interviews conducted in pairs may be more useful than individual interviews, because interviewees can elaborate responses from each other and thereby improve. If they know the other person well, they are more likely to feel more comfortable to give genuine answers. We have found that peers provide more reliable feedbacks and, of course, you have the opinion of two people at the same time.

Participant observation provides valuable insight into how people use products, processes, and procedures. It is very useful for understanding the context, behavior, motivations, interactions and the reality of people. It also helps you understand what they need. With this type of research, it is important to make observations in the natural environment of the participant.

The proposition of the service is essentially the proposition of the business but seen from two different perspectives: that of the business and that of the user/client. The service proposition needs to be based on real insights gathered from the research. For example, is there an unmet need, a gap in the market, or a new technology?

How to use the ecology of a service

Sometimes it is necessary to understand the operating context of the service, which can be very complex. You can map this information by creating a 'service ecology' - a diagram of all the actors affected by a service and the relationships between them, displayed systematically. Observing services like ecologies also helps to emphasize that all actors in a service exchange some value. A healthy ecology is one in which everyone benefits, rather than having a flow of value in a single direction.

The basic actors in a service ecology are:

  • The companies that make promises to the customer (or service user), the agents who deliver that promise through different channels and the customers who return value to the organization. The organization itself does not deliver experiences to people. They are provided by agents who are in direct contact with users through channels and contact points.
  • Channels can be e-mail, telephone, or personal contact, and the point of contact is an individual moment of interaction within the channel, such as a connection or an e-mail exchange. So a customer can interact with multiple contact points on a single channel or across multiple channels. The organization's role is to deliver the tools and infrastructure that agents need to deliver a good service experience.

The ecology map of service has three main purposes:

  • Map the actors and stakeholders of the service;
  • Investigate relationships that are part of or affect service;
  • Generate new service concepts by rearranging how actors should work together

The experiences in service

Working with experiences in service design is the same as working with communications in graphic design. People's current and future experiences-of customers, users, patients, and consumers-are the context in which service design works. Services can be promoted through positive experiences by ensuring that users' expectations are met.

There are different types of experiences:

  • User experience: interactions with technologies;
  • Customer experience: experiences with retail brands;
  • Service provider experience: how the other side of the service works;
  • Human experience: the emotional effect of services that impact the quality of life and well-being;

The customer experience is the total sum of customer interactions with a service. In many ways, managing customer experiences needs to manage service delivery and customer expectations.

As users, we have expectations regarding quality and value that exceed our daily tasks. These expectations are defined by the brand and by our experiences with other services and are also linked to how much we are paying. If our experiences do not meet our expectations, we are disappointed and will probably change the service provider. Quality of service is often part of the company's culture, and it is very difficult to restructure the culture once it has already been established.

The product experience represents the quality of what is tangible. The fundamental concept to be adopted when you design a service is that perceived quality is defined by the gap between what the person expects and what they actually experience. Therefore, the primary focus of the service projector is to ensure that every interaction with the service meets the right level of expectation. This means that the level of quality and the nature of the experience need to be the same over time and in the various points of contact.

When you exceed expectations at one point, you may end up disappointed in the next interaction if you can not deliver the service to the same level. Sometimes you may need to consider a reduction in the quality of a certain point of contact, to increase the overall quality of the experience. When you set consistent expectations for each interaction, and you meet them, people will realize the quality.

Customers choose their speed and way through the service, so you can only minimize the gap between expectations and experiences by ensuring consistency.

Great service experiences happen when all points of contact work in harmony and when people receive what they expect day after day.

Building services prototypes

Unlike a product prototype, which is a physical object, service prototypes represent experiences of interacting with multiple points of contact, as well as taking into account how these experiences unfold with time and context.

When constructing a service prototype, ask the following questions:

  • Do people understand the service - what does the new service do?
  • Do people see the value of service in their lives?
  • Do people understand how to use the service?
  • Which contact points are central to providing the service?
  • Are the visual elements of the service working?
  • Do language and terminology work?
  • Did the analysts who tried the prototype have ideas for improvement?

Measuring and improving services

Measuring production efficiencies makes sense from an industrial point of view, although the sustainability agenda requires companies to consider the complete product lifecycle. But for services, what should be measured is consumption - the experiences of service providers and users. When you base your measurements on the issues and successes that people experienced when using a service, you are better positioned to streamline delivery while enhancing the experience.

Finally, one should measure everything that is most likely to create a shared culture of improvement within the organization. And that's what creates valuable and long-term relationships with customers, enabling sustainable growth.

Some typical behaviors in service design projects can be translated to results:

  • New sales: increased acquisition of new customers
  • Prolonged use: increased loyalty and customer retention
  • More usage: increase in each customer's revenue
  • More sales: increase in sales of other services from the same provider
  • More automatic services: reduced costs
  • Better delivery processes: reduced costs
  • Better quality: greater profitability and competitiveness

Tools to measure services

There are some frameworks used as a way of measuring the services that can help in the projects:

  • SERVQUAL: a framework of quality of service. It was created as a method to manage the quality of service, measuring the gaps between what the organization wants to deliver and what it delivers; and also by measuring the difference between people's expectations and actual experiences with service.
  • RATER: A quality of service framework that measures the gaps between people's expectations and their experiences in five key dimensions:
  • Reliability: the organization's ability to run the service reliably and accurately;
  • Guarantee: the knowledge and ability of employees to inspire confidence and confidence;
  • Tangible: the appearance of physical facilities, equipment, personnel and communication materials;
  • Empathy: knowledge about customers, identifying their needs;
  • Responsiveness: A willingness to help customers by providing fast service and problem-solving.
  • The bottom line: The basic concept is that an organization should be measured not only by its financial performance but also by ecological and social outcomes. The model challenges the idea that companies are responsible only to their shareholders and states that organizations are responsible for all stakeholders - anyone who is directly or indirectly affected by the organization's actions.

Final Notes

Service design assumes a role of shifting economies from valuing things to valuing benefits. For this behavior change, there are two important requirements: Organizations need to shift their offerings, savings, and operations to orientate themselves to provide access and convenience rather than product; and customers need to change their purchasing decisions, from possession to access to convenience.

We need to focus on experience, not product. For service to replace a product, it needs to be tangible, useful, and desirable, and service design provides an approach to designing such services.

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