Feeling, Thinking, Doing Service Design

Over the weekend, I’ve put together some reflective thoughts on an interesting presentation I recently read, which was written by Patrick Quattlebaum, the Design Director of Adaptive Path, an experience design firm in San Francisco, California.

‘On Service Design’ included a slideshare presentation, which I think was a very clear piece of communication design. When reviewing its content and structure, it also helped progress my thinking and understanding of Service Design in practise as well as  inspiring this shared reflection on why I thought the post was particularly timely and useful.

Although I have practised as a Service Designer for over three years now, it remains a continuous learning process and I still find it really refreshing to see something revealing about the challenges others Service Designers face, and contrasting that with my own experiences and challenges.

Patrick’s presentation ‘on Service Design’, has a clear story to tell and this is something I can learn from, when creating any of my own slide communications for different audiences. The story also prompted more reflection on the new and improved skills necessary to practise Service Design.

After the introduction to Patrick’s presentation, the themes to be covered appear on slide #3, reversed out in five different colours.

Beginning with ‘Case: A human service’ each slide follows an unfolding narrative, in the form of a customer experience scenario that anyone can relate to: “A Date With My Wife”

After establishing the destination for the date “at a nice restaurant” each slide communicates the most important stages of the journey there, via a yellow cab.

In the unfolding scenario, the cab service becomes the focus, as is initially seen ‘through the customer’s eyes’. Each slide progressively reveals four pain points in the cab service experience. The cab is ‘dirty’ and the service is ‘unreliable’, there’s a ‘pressure to use cash’ and the journey is summarised as ‘not special’. Not the best start to a date!

The Yellow cab service is then compared and contrasted with a premium service proposition, which uses the same product (a car) but then adds value to the cab service, all enabled by mobile App technology, designed to make each step of the service journey simple and convenient for both the customer and the service provider.

The alternative service journey begins with the yellow cab being replaced by a luxury limousine, with a liveried driver in front of it, opening the rear door for his passengers.

Four key elements of the premium service proposition are then progressively revealed… ‘expensive – book in advance – book in blocks of time – two payment steps’ before another slide reveals the name of the service provider, Uber Cabs.

Uber is a San Francisco-based technology startup, which is disrupting business as usual and changing the way people get around by cab in US cities, using mobile smart phone technology and location-based services, enabled by GPS. The Uber value proposition is ‘Everyone’s private driver’; and you can request a ride from ‘Anywhere at Any time’ using their iPhone and Android apps.

The next part of the story is focused on how the disruptive service adds value for Uber’s customer. Again the slides progressively reveal the simple steps necessary to book an Uber taxi, track the progress of the cab, and then ‘ping a prompt’ to tell the customer when the cab has arrived. When reaching the destination, there’s the convenience of a cashless payment for the service rendered and an opportunity to capture feedback on service quality, using simple star ratings – all this extra utility (and value) is clearly facilitated by the Uber App. Finally, how the service adds value for the service provider in more human service design concludes the human service theme.

The next theme, ‘Why Service Design’ digs into the progressively shifting economic context of value creation ‘from products to services’ and makes the business case for Service Design. The slides introduce the concept that services are made up of the experience and the process necessary to deliver them. These two areas of service delivery are where Service Design can be usefully applied.

‘Map the experience’ is where activity takes place front stage and offers Service Design tools and approaches to understanding people’s service experiences, with the goal of allowing a design team to ‘see the service through the eyes of the customer’.

In ‘Change the Machine’ design activity takes place backstage, where process design, through service blueprinting tools, help designers engage operations people to move from vision to implementation. The slides help visualise and communicate the breadth and depth necessary to plan and execute a Service Design process.

I suspect that ‘Changing the machine’ is where the strategic reach of Service Designers will really be important but agree with a Linkedin post by Graham Hill on this topic. As I was setting up my own practise, I also commented on the challenge I anticipated working independently, adding my thoughts on a (March 2010) Design Thinking Network post entitled ‘Service Designers Should Aim to Become Obsolete

In 2001, Carol Moore, then an executive consultant in IBM’s management consulting business in Europe, wrote an email to me saying that…

“implementing experience engineering in a business, quickly makes it obvious that much larger transformations are necessary, as processes and operations are changed to accommodate the creation and implementation of the desired experiences. Thus, what may have begun as a relatively independent project will grow into the source of a new strategic vision for the company.”

She went on to say that “Experience engineering is a ‘hybrid’ discipline, and the initial responsibility for managing it falls primarily into design organizations, which have long recognized the value of people who can cross the boundaries of disciplines and skills. As business transformation spreads across a business, though, designers must become one part of an enterprise-wide implementation team – but design must remain at the core of the strategy. This is territory that is unfamiliar to many designers; educators concerned about the integration of design into strategic business thinking must make the changes that will equip students to operate successfully in a much wider universe — the ‘fusion’ zone of technology, business and design”.

I believe that the strategic process of experience engineering is why it is imperative that the benefits of Service Design are communicated to and supported by people working at the highest organisational business level.

In a 2012 article ‘Customer experience governance‘  The authors at Forrester Research wrote about the critical importance of taking management ownership of the customer experience across multiple channels of delivery and be prepared to ‘adapt the core systems to customer experience goals’ i.e. changing the machine.

So, to effectively manage innovation in customer experience, Chief Information Officers (CIO’s) – or their executive management equivalent – have to take a strong and strategic leadership position, which supports and facilitates Service Design across organisational silos.

Calling oneself a ‘Service Designer’ often seems quite a expansive and somewhat ambiguous term, when used to describe the holistic skills and interaction capabilities needed to design for services. I think the multi-disciplinary capability of Service Design teams and the new/improved skills required of Service Designers, will become key to having any future opportunities to undertake large and complex service transformation projects for clients. This desire to be more useful is why I wish to pursue my journey to the interface as a valued part of a multi-disciplinary design team and not to continue to try and ‘go it alone’ by working though servicejunkie.

In my experience since 2000, the transformation required to almost completely reinvent myself as a designer has been profoundly challenging, both professionally and personally; but despite this, I still believe that moving upstream to work at the front end of the design process as a strategic Service Designer (and as a facilitator of change) represents an important career development opportunity for designers who wish to find useful roles, at the important interface between business and design.

This transition will undoubtedly take time and real committment, as there’s a need to continuously evolve one’s thinking, learning through design projects that require new collaborative approaches & evolved skills. Adapting to the shifting boundaries of professional design practise and finally letting go of my (hard-won) role of designer (as single discipline expert) is a price I was prepared to pay, in order to work at the front end of the design process, where a people-centred, participatory approach to creating new solutions to complex problems is where designers can still play an important role in creating new forms of value for people, without damaging the environment.


About servicejunkie

i AM servicejunkie “A designer works through and for other people, and is concerned primarily with their problems rather than his own” — Norman Potter, What is a designer? (1969) In my view, the only important thing about design is how it relates to people and this belief lies at the heart of everything I do and have ever done as a designer. My passion is using people-centred design as a process to make things better for people. I design and facilitate creative workshops, which enable people to learn how to ‘think and do like a designer’ co-designing solutions that create new forms value for the people the organisation serves, its customers. My purpose is to serve, by helping my clients frame more human problems to solve using design thinking and codesign. My integrity reflects a consistency in my actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations and outcomes.
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2 Responses to Feeling, Thinking, Doing Service Design

  1. Pingback: Feeling, Thinking, Doing Service Design | fred zimny's serve4impact

  2. Interesting post, as ever, Richard. It strikes me that if you’re ahead of the proverbial curve in conceiving how you can be useful as a service designer, it takes courage and perseverance. The implications you’ve identified of connecting business with design are challenging: working in multi-disciplinary teams, being involved much more early in work, having a people-centred approach that brings you much more deeply into cultural change, etc… Then add the personal transformation on top, and no-one pays moulah for that effort!

    I like the cab experience examples: so simple and impactful.

    In some ways, you’re right at the front of what’s needed to integrate design with change. But it seems to me the structural, political, cultural legacies of most big organisations, who need this approach, have metaphorical chains that drag their metaphorical heels. Also, people are just so damned busy and fretful, that only a few are lifting their head to see the possibilities.

    In my day-dreaming, I imagine some kind of awards ceremony run by you, along the theme of integration of business and design. Backed up by a prestigious Masters programme. That would get attention…:)


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