Why your business needs service design

Times have changed. Today’s consumers are critical. They compare their journeys across industries. Liquid expectations are the norm; what makes one particular interaction delightful now raises the bar for all others. Competing is no longer about products – it’s about delivering amazing experiences.
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This video explains how to engage your customers by adopting a new mindset centered around service design. Although an example in the financial services industry is given, service design applies to every single company within every industry. 

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As consumers, we have evolved a keen nose for quality. We know a good thing when we see it. We’re always on the lookout for something better. And what has been seen cannot be unseen. In that sense, this world of modern wonders has spoiled us. We used to be perfectly satisfied comparing apples only to other apples. Now we look at Apple’s stellar in-store service and customer recognition and wonder why we would ever settle for anything less, anywhere. 

With Uber, paying for your ride is as painless as getting out of the car. That sort of seamless ease tends to stick with consumers. But they don’t walk away wondering why other transportation companies don’t offer similar convenience. Instead, they start asking themselves why they still have to wait in line at the supermarket. And just like that, a stand-out experience in one user journey has cascading implications for many, many others, transcending traditional industry barriers as if they never existed.

It’s not just about who has the better product. It’s about who has the better experience.

Understanding those implications is the key to staying competitive. It’s not just about who has the better product. It’s about who has the better experience. Consumers are delighted by Amazon Go because they can just walk out. Everything just works. But by the same logic, old-school checkouts no longer do. Time was, they were the only game in town. Now, they’re the worst. You don’t want to be on that side of the coin. And that’s why your business needs service design.

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Wait, what is service design again?

That’s a really good question, actually. We hear it a lot. Which may have something to do with the fact that everybody seems to have their own answer. For us, it’s this:

Service design applies process, a set of methodologies and a particular mindset to design the best experience for each product and service.

Of course, there are at least 18 different officially-recognized definitions of service design floating around, perhaps more. And there are certainly new definitions waiting around the corner. That’s plenty to choose from, most of which touch on five core principles. These aren’t universal truths, mind you, or statistically-validated laws. They just happen to be recurring themes in service design.

1. It’s user-centric

What better way to delight consumers than to design services based on their expectations, wants, needs and feedback? As opposed to just designing them the way you think they should work, that is.

2. It’s co-creative

A buzzwordy way of saying that all stakeholder groups should be involved in the service design process. Not just customers – everybody. Including the talent behind the touch points in your organization.

3. It ‘sequences’

Service design is often described as ‘sequencing’, which is another way of saying that services should be approached as a sequence of related actions, interactions or events. Everything is connected.

4. It ‘evidences’

Many services happen without users noticing. They create value and positive experiences but leave no tangible trace. Service design brings these helpful ghosts out of hiding and into the real world.

5. It’s holistic

What part of the experience do you need to get right to make it truly delightful? Trick question: you need to get every part right. The whole environment in which your service lives should be considered.

But what is service design, really?

Let’s face it: as illuminating as definitions and key principles might be, they aren’t going to give you working knowledge of what service design is and how to use it. They give you the basic idea, sure. But they don’t give you the reality. They’re generic, arbitrary and almost impossible to quantify objectively. And as a result, they don’t create a meaningful understanding of the practical side of service design.

Service design doesn’t only consider what works for the user – it also examines what works for your company.

In today’s hyper-competitive, hyper-dynamic marketplace, the aim of the game is to deliver landmark experiences. You want to compete at the perceptual and experiential level because that’s what your competitors are shooting for as well. The products and services you design and develop might look brilliant in theory, but what if they fall apart when you start testing with real users? You’ll be back at the drawing board, less a considerable amount of money and time.

Instead of finding out later down the road that your experience just doesn’t work for your users and having to start over from scratch, you need a method to determine where to invest your resources so they’ll get results. And while there are many such methods, service design stands out from the pack.

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It doesn’t only consider what works for the user – it also examines what works for your company. For the platform behind it, the internal support structure, the market. It takes the front and back end into account and actively engages all stakeholders, involving them in the design and development process to ensure the MVP you ultimately arrive at can provide a rock-solid foundation for scaling up.

Practice makes perfect (if you have the right tools)

At the end of the day, the only way to truly understand service design is to dive in and do it. Which is made all the more rewarding by the fact that it is an intensely co-creative process. Everybody in the experience chain gets to be involved, from the customers to the internal users that support them. That means you get a truly collaborative experience, with a wealth of inputs from every possible angle.

At the end of the day, the only way to truly understand service design is to dive in and do it.

However, since the process is so deeply collaborative, there’s a risk of DIY-ing yourself into service design. Instead of following a predictable, reproducible recipe, you might find yourself just throwing together the ingredients on a trial-and-error basis. That’s a problem, because even if you do get your hands on the right ingredients, you still won’t end up with the results you want.

Our goal is to ensure you’ll be able to replicate the service design process on your own. We don’t just want to walk you through the process – we want to help you get a handle on it. Which is why we believe it’s most meaningful to focus on getting you the proper tools.

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Supporting your service design journey

It’s very easy to get lost in service design. There’s a lot of information to deal with. You not only need to understand how your business works on a deeply granular level, but also define the environment in which your service will live. You’ll need to extract and manage that information to make progress, and you’ll also need to visualize it in a meaningful way.

We use purpose-built canvases to structure the entire service design process and help manage each stage of the journey. Using them in the right order will help you get the results you want, in a way that is understandable and reproducible. Ultimately, we want to empower you. We take an all-inclusive approach to getting from idea to launch – and we want to help you develop the same outlook.

We developed the Enso tool for the same reason: a unique application that helps you plan and run design sprints. It started when we discovered that other design sprint tools were rigid and inflexible toward client needs. Speaking with other service designers at MOBGEN | Accenture Interactive, we determined this was a universal problem. And so, we built a solution: a simple, easy-to-use tool that provides users with a wide range of service design templates and allows them to adjust them based on specific client needs, goals and use cases. The result is a live, working tool that’s constantly under development, one that has been used with a wide range of clients and scenarios and continues to grow.

Why? Because ultimately, we’re tinkerers at heart. We want to put those tools in your hands. We want to make service design as easy, accessible and practical for your business as we possibly can. Because we know it can help you deliver added value you haven’t even dreamed of yet. If you ask yourself which business challenges service design can help you solve, who knows where you’ll end up?

Enso is now live on Google Play and the Apple App Store

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Download the iOS version of the app here or get the Android version here.

Author: Yoav Farbey