Service design. It is impossible to have avoided the buzz word during the past few years. However, do you actually understand what the term means and why it is THE topic right now?
The buzzword was invented already in 1982 but it didn’t really take off until the era of digitalisation. Mary Meeker reported that at 3.6 billion, the number of Internet users has exceeded half of the world’s population. According to the same report, in 2017 the average adult in the US spent 5.9 hours with digital media every day. Service design is now more relevant than ever.
Service design refers to the process of planning and organising resources to create optimal service experiences. It is an overarching concept that covers all your business’ operations from planning to marketing and the delivery of the product or service. According to Service Design Networks, service design can be understood as ”the activity of planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between service provider and customers.” It’s important to note the duality of service design: it aims to improve both the customer and employee experiences.
Need some further convincing on how important service design is? Let’s have a look at some statistics:
- Mobile devices account for 3.3 hours of total daily time spent with digital media, while desktops and laptops take up only 2.1 hours (Mary Meeker)
- 61 % of users will move quickly to another site if they can’t find right away what they’re looking for (ExperienceDynamics)
- 81 % of shoppers research online before buying (ExperienceDynamics)
- A bad mobile experience makes 52 % of users less likely to engage with the company (ExperienceDynamics)
- Once on a company’s homepage, 86 % of visitors want to see information about the company’s products and services, and 64 % want to find the company’s contact information (KoMarketing)
- 86 % of consumers will pay more for a better customer experience (Oracle)
- Customer experience leaders outperformed laggards on the S&P 500 Index by nearly 80% (Qualtrics)
These points are consequences of two trends. First, along development and increasingly sophisticated economies, services are become a dominant medium for commercial transactions. Second, customers expect better, more tailored and further personalised services and products.
Here are five general guidelines to keep in mind when organising your business operation for better service design suggested by Stickdorn and Schneider in their book This is Service Design Thinking.
How do customers perceive your services? Use your customer insights to understand what the users understand and perceive what is being delivered, what they are expecting from your service, what they think while they’re using it. Finally, you’ll want to know if they would use your service again; if not, why?
These and many other questions help you to develop your services more user or customer centred. Techniques such as interviews, surveys and field studies help to gain deeper customer insights. Technology and analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, Facebook Audience Insights and many others, are a great help, if not essential, in efficiently gathering and organising data on your customers. Machine learning, for example, the use of codes like Facebook Pixel, help you to personalise your customers’ experiences.
Involve all your stakeholders in the service design process. Your team has members from different backgrounds and with different skill sets, utilise this multidisciplinary expertise. Who else is part of your “service ecosystem”? External professionals, service providers and maybe even consumers should be part of it and their input recognised. Make them feel valued. This partnership and engagement between your stakeholders encourages commitment to your service design and brand philosophies.
Keep learning. Service design is an iterative process that changes when new information arrives. Testing and launching prototype solutions helps you to learn more from your customers’ tastes and to improve your service. Moreover, remember that in the customer’s mind, all interactions with your brand are sequenced and interconnected. Even if these touch-points are provided by separate operators across your business, the end results should be consistent and of high quality.
Services are intangible by nature, but adding visual aids gives the stakeholders something tangible. Your team can use sketches, maps, graphs or prototypes to give intangible concepts a physical form. As visualisation can make the concept easier to comprehend and remember, this may help with communicating the idea and its goals to various operators.
For the customers, providing physical evidence such as pictures or merchandise may prolong their positive memory of an intangible and often transient service. Well-planned service evidencing may increase brand loyalty and referral rates as visualisations and other tangible elements can trigger lasting service memories.
The entire environment of the services should be considered, all the touch-points your customer has during their user journey. You need to consider all your business’ channels, online and offline, digital and human interactions. Plan and organise your services while keeping in mind the entire user experience. Context matters.