Why service design?

by Murray Cox Pancentric Digital

Service design is a proven and powerful way to drive the digital transformation so many businesses need.

How often have you been stuck in an interminable queue on the phone while trying to speak to your bank or insurance company?

“Your call is important to us,” drones an impersonal recording. You think: “Liars!”

And assuming your call is ever answered you may have felt your frustration levels creep yet higher as you are passed from pillar to post by people who keep asking you to repeat the same basic details. Name. Date of birth. Are you having a nice day? Account number. Again.

You’ve probably said to yourself that there has to be a better way. There is, and it’s called service design.

The Principles Of Service Design

Service design is a multidisciplinary approach to developing services that deliver more value for both customers and service providers. It is based on the principles of design thinking, which are strategic, holistic and collaborative.

That’s quite a mouthful, so let’s try to break it down a bit:

Start with the customer need. At a fundamental level, what problem are we trying to solve?

  • With a clear picture of the customer need (importantly, these are real needs discovered by getting up-close-and-personal with customers), it is possible to start thinking about what kind of service might meet those needs
  • Those early thoughts about what service would work need to be tested — some of this prototyping can be pretty low-tech with post it notes and sketches
  • Importantly the service offer is platform agnostic — which means it can be delivered in real life, via the phone, digitally or through some combination of all these platforms and channels
  • The combination of channels means a big part of service design is understanding the customer journey and the different routes people could potentially take through the touch points used to deliver the service
  • To accommodate those customer journeys in a joined-up way, a service blueprint will be created which details where, when and how channel hand-offs are handled and what happens at each point
  • There is an iterative element to the service blueprints, as testing and learning is fundamental to service design and the process of improvement
  • This is when we really start to think about how the company needs to be configured and structured to make it all happen

Needless to say there is a bit more to it than this, but you get the gist of the approach.

The Commercial Value Of Service Design

When you start unravelling these sorts of things you tend to bump into a lot of complexity (we’ll say that’s why the banks haven’t yet been able to kill the annoying call centres).

That said, there is an important bottom-line imperative for doing this work — study after study reports that customer-centric and/or design-centric businesses make more money.

Quantifying the cash benefits can be tough, but it is important. The UK Design Council found every £1 invested in design returns £20 in increased turnover, £4 in increased profits and £5 in increased exports.

Looking at the other side of the balance sheet, the Digital Efficiency Report published by the UK Government in 2013 stated that going digital could save the government between £1.7 and £1.8 billion each year.

It is important to not get bogged down in the numbers though. As Francis Maude, the Minister for Cabinet Office said at the time: “This isn’t just about saving money — the public increasingly expects to access services quickly and conveniently, at times and in ways that suit them.”

Isn’t Service Design Just UX?

No but there definitely is overlap.

Many people ask us what are the differences between user experience design, customer experience design and service design. It’s quite simple really:

  • User experience design is focused on a single touch point in a customer journey — typically a website or smart phone app
  • Customer experience considers the design and implementation of multiple touch points in multiple channels throughout a customer journey
  • Service design considers the fundamentals of what is being offered to the customer (i.e. does it solve any problems, as opposed to a slick overall experience that leaves people feeling wanting) and, importantly, does it from the perspective of both the customer and the service provider on an end-to-end basis.

Simple, huh?

The Pancentric Approach

Pancentric’s approach to service design is delivery platform agnostic — thinking only in-terms of building a website to solve a problem is severely limiting. We have digital in our name and we often find a digital technology of some description is part of the service design solution. So, as a service design agency backed with a full stack, full service digital agency we can respond when the solution demands a digital component — and we can market it to the target audience. If it doesn’t demand a digital build, we can involve one of our partners — for example, if a call centre needs re-configuring we know exactly the right people to call.

The service design approach means improvements are typically needed behind the scenes of organisations, requiring experience in the change management and organisational development realm.

Change is scary, and it can be particularly daunting for large institutions like banks. But, as the Facebook/Uber effect sweeps the world and we all get used to innovative services that “just work” or make sense, it’s only a matter of time until you see a caped service designer coming to the rescue.