Build value through service design

Build value through service design

Every business, government and non-profit organization shares a basic, fundamental equation; they possess a core internal group of individuals who provide some type of good or service to an external audience. Traditionally, these two groups are brought together through the efforts of marketing. To be an effective marketer, an organization will divide consumers into market segments and, through research and statistics, will create one-way messages that can be delivered to targeted audiences. Most often this is in the form of advertising. 40+ years ago this was an extremely efficient way for an organization to communicate to audiences. Media consumption was far more predictable, and a well-placed 30-second television spot could reach wide swaths of a market segment.

Unfortunately for advertisers, decades of trying too hard to be clever and loud, and pushy “one day only” sales, have left audiences with ad fatigue. This fatigue, combined with a highly fractured, multifaceted media landscape, has left marketers with the daunting challenge of getting their message out to smaller, highly targeted audiences, or sometimes rethinking the way they interact with their audience entirely.

Organizations as service providers

One way to look at an organization anew is as a service provider or, for larger organizations, a collection of services. By definition, a service is an intangible commodity, but even when there is a tangible commodity involved, there is an element of service in all organization/audience exchanges. The tools we use to look at and understand services allow us to see today’s competitive ecosystem more holistically from the perspective of our audiences. It also pushes organizations to see it as a two-way exchange rather than the one-way relation of traditional marketing.

By using tools like experience maps, service blueprints and user research, we can quickly understand the elements of an organization’s interaction with its audiences, and identify areas where value can be created for all parties involved. In an increasingly complex and connected world, the ability to create a positive experience through an exchange of value is quantifiably one of the most important things a business or brand can do. This is the heart of service design.

Applying design thinking to services

Service design as a practice has been around for over three decades, and has been used effectively by companies like fast food chains and hotels for a long time as a way to differentiate themselves from otherwise very similar competitors. In more recent years, the use of service design has extended its reach to all types of businesses and public sector organizations. It is especially useful today as it allows organizations to look at their interactions with people across multiple channels from the vantage point of the user.

Breaking down a large organization into a collection of service providers has a number of benefits. The most obvious is the way the process identifies user pain points. By documenting a service through a blueprint framework, it’s easy to see where users may have a negative experience. This knowledge, confirmed through research and testing, gives the organization a point to focus its efforts on, and the confidence of knowing that their investment to improve experiences will pay dividends.

Another benefit of this is that it can make a large organization approachable and digestible. Documenting a service, even one that is quite complex, can happen relatively quickly. We often go through this process with a department in a matter of hours and soon begin to conceptualize solutions to the aforementioned pain points with the client in one single meeting. And because these paths are represented visually by nature of the frameworks, it is easy to then circulate the materials with other groups inside the organization to create a shared understanding.

Compare this to long research engagements that produce lengthy consulting reports with little actionable content, it’s no surprise that businesses and governments are embracing the tenets of service design.