Services currently make up 70% of New Zealand’s GDP, and this percentage is growing every year. Given how important services are to our economy, it should be easy to find examples of remarkable customer service. Instead, the front page news in Wellington is all about phone outages and train delays.
I think that the main reason we get bad service is because most organisations leave it up to business analysts, project managers or software engineers to design the customer experience. We don’t get remarkable service because organisations don’t consciously design the end-to-end experience.
This is where Service Design can help. It involves explicitly designing end-to-end customer experiences, across multiple touchpoints (the channels that customers use to interact with you) and across time.
At a high level, Service Design is pretty simple. You start out by gathering the basic information – who are your customers? What are they trying to do? In what context? How can you help them do it? Then you create multiple concepts, which you test with users and iterate until your design gets more and more concrete. Then you implement.
For anyone familiar with usability, this process is going to be very familiar. That’s because at a high-level, any human-centred, design-driven process will look pretty much the same.
The main difference with Service Design is the mindset and the methods. With Service Design you think holistically about the end-to-end experience, across touchpoints. Because services are intangible, you need to use a different set of tools.
For example, you might create an experience prototype, to simulate what it’s like to use a service. Steve Jobs from Apple says that one of the best pieces of advice he got about retailing was to “go rent a warehouse and build a prototype of a store, and not, you know, just design it, go build 20 of them, then discover it didn’t work.” Apple designed their retail stores as if they were a product.
You can do the same thing. It doesn’t have to be expensive – you will be surprised with what you can learn by using furniture, cardboard and paper, and asking sales staff and real customers to pretend they are in a real store. Experience prototypes are a superb way to simulate the service experience and cheaply show and test your design concepts with real customers. After all, it helped Apple to reach $1 billion in annual sales faster than any retailer in history.
In 2010 you are going to hear us talk a lot more about service design. Optimal Usability’s vision is to help transform New Zealand organisations into providers of world-class customer experiences. To do that, the focus has to be on the holistic end-to-end experience, where each touchpoint is like an instrument in a symphony. Our ambition is to help you to be the conductor of all those instruments, and to create a melodic customer experience masterpiece.