UX, Design and Startups Volume 5: Introducing Service Design
| 6 minutes
In the fifth and final part of this blog series I’ll be walking through Service Design. What it is, how it can impact your business and when you should really think about investing in this function as well as the benefits/consequences of investing vs. ignoring.
Service Design, much like User Research, is not a widely known skillset with the startups we’ve worked with, but not for the same reasons. The simple fact is that in the 18 months Confido has been helping scale design teams, we are yet to meet a business that is familiar with the purpose of Service Design. I’ve referenced skill gaps and knowledge gaps throughout the series, but with this skillset the phrase “you don’t know what you don’t know” really does epitomize the state of play in the market.
If you’ve read the rest of the series, you’ll be well versed on the knowledge gaps in startups design functions, and if you’re dropping in for the first time, then you can check out the other blog entries here.
So, let’s begin with…
The what and the why
“Service design is a human-centred design approach that places equal value on the customer experience and the business process. It aims to create quality customer experiences, and seamless service delivery through collaborative methods that engage both customers and the service delivery team. Service design helps organizations gain true, end-to-end understanding of their services, enabling holistic and meaningful improvements.”
Yep, not a simple explanation, but service design is a complex role which sits at a strategic level of any business.
In fact, there are many designers out there that have been informally doing it for a long time, but it has become something of a growing trend in the past 2 or so years to recognise it as its own skillset. Larger businesses continue to recognise its importance to them.
This point alone immediately touches on why there is a lack of knowledge around its existence in people outside of the UX community.
The context of this is that when it comes to service design, you’re designing for a business to optimise the product in-line with business processes, but there is so much more that happens with your product than the interaction on a screen.
There is a whole story before, during and after alongside that product from a business perspective which effects the overall user experience with your brand. Service Designers work on analysing and improving all the touchpoints to your product, from an internal business perspective and an external user perspective.
Source: A Guide to Service Blueprinting
The core remit of a service designer is rooted in UX design thinking. Their purpose is to open a business’ eyes to an end-to-end, surface-to-core perspective. They advocate understanding a product from a customer perspective and implement creative, user-centred processes to the product and the business operations holistically.
Service design creates a platform for a more collaborative environment within any business, analysing and exposing the entire end-to-end process of the service your business is providing, so that you can make improvements and positive changes to this.
Why does Service Design matters to Startups?
It sounds simplistic to say that Service should always be designed around customer needs, rather than the internal needs of the business. Today, the choice between devices, never mind products, is wider than it’s ever been.
As a business with a customer-facing product, any startup should be more than aware that customers can (and do) jump between social media, website, app, email, phone and in some cases, physical, and expect to receive consistent service, while moving between them.
Take a business like PureGym, its service sits across its gyms, its app, its customer service via phone and email correspondence. Its gyms have completely automated entrances, with no conventional receptionist to greet you as part of the sign in. A huge part of its success and subsequent growth has been in creating a consistent, simple brand. Its products are simple to use and there is consistent accessibility across all their product’s platforms should you need support.
The service goes beyond simply providing customers with equipment, and all these parts of the service, coupled with the operational side of the business (marketing, software, maintenance, finance, leadership) and there is a lot to consider.
Most companies want to deliver great services to their customers, but often the structure of project deliveries does not lend itself to cross-team service design analysis. This means new products and services are constrained by processes, legacy IT or siloed communications.
Evolution, adaptation and innovation are chipped away by pressure to please investors or acquirers, rather than building a sustainable business for you customers, and a product with a longer lifecycle.
We have worked with startups who have had great success and will continue to grow in the future. Often the successful products are built with the user in mind, where founders have seen a gap in the market for something to improve life/ make life simpler – the goal of any digital product. However, as you scale, there's a danger that your startup world becomes a game played for the participants, not the users. We’ve witnessed this and it means is that the more your startup focuses on products and teams, the less important the user appears to become.
What’s the difference between Service Design and UX?
UX (and UI) design are all about connecting functionality with appealing visual formats, so that when users interact with technologies, they can perform a certain task with ease. Need guidance on what makes great UX design? If the design needs explaining, then it needs improvement. Great design is intuitive and adapted to the user.
While service designers are interested in the users’ experience of individual touchpoints, they are also interested in how those touchpoints are connected, how people move around a service, and what the experience of that journey is.
“The most fundamental difference between UX design and service design is the nature of the design problem that they are trying to solve. UX designers typically solve problems that are confined to an individual product, or to individual “touchpoints” within a service.”
Even the Don Norman quote above hints at the way UX designers tend to treat these touchpoints as separate, discrete design problems. This “one-by-one” approach is evidence of what service designers sometimes regard as design “silos”.
Generally, the role of UX designers in a project isn’t to step back and design an entire service. On the occasions that they do apply their skills to service-level problems, they are entering the realms of service design.
How should a startup introduce Service Design?
For startups, I’d advise the first thing you should focus on is doing your best to adopt service-design practice, while you’re trying to scale a product. Services should be developed as a minimum viable service (MVS) and then deployed. They can then be iterated and improved to add additional value based on user/customer feedback.
Some practices to adopt while you’re building and deploying a product (source: principles of design thinking):
• Any activity that fails to add value for the customer should be eliminated or minimized
• Work is always structured around processes and not internal constructs e.g. functions, geography, product, etc.
• Work should not be fragmented unless absolutely necessary. This enables accountability and responsibility from a single individual and reduces delays, rework, etc.
• Processes should be as simple as possible. Focus on reducing process steps, hand overs, rules and controls. The owner of the process should have control over how it is delivered.
· Services should be designed based on a genuine comprehension of the purpose of the service, the demand for the service and the ability of the service provider to deliver that service.
· Services should be designed to deliver a unified and efficient system rather than component-by-component which can lead to poor overall service performance.
· Services should be designed based on creating value for users and customers and to be as efficient as possible.
· Services should be designed on the understanding that special events (those that cause variation in general processes) will be treated as common events (and processes designed to accommodate them)
· Services should always be designed with input from the users of the service
· Services can and should be prototyped before being developed in full
· Services must be designed in conjunction with a clear business case and model
· Services should be designed and delivered in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders (both external and internal)
• Processes should reflect customer needs and many versions of a process are acceptable if customers have different needs.
• Process variation should be kept to a minimum.
• Process dependencies should be kept to a minimum. (I.e. process in parallel)
• Processes should be internalized rather than overly decomposed (e.g. training is better than work instructions)
• Process breaks and delays must be kept to a minimum
• Reconciliation, controls and inspection of process must be kept to a minimum
• KPIs for processes will only measure things that matter
The work that service designers undertake — which we’ll look at in more detail in a moment — is geared towards shaping how touchpoints work together, from both the perspective of the end user, and those responsible for running the service.
Service designers are likely to be consulted in response to a problem that is global in scope, or if the required solution is anticipated to require changes across multiple parts of a service.
Service design consists of creating the necessary touchpoints between businesses and customers throughout all the interactions required for a service, to provide optimum user experience. It involves aligning the company’s resources to make the impact of that experience as positive as possible, in an aim to retain and generate repeat-business customers.
How should I hire and what’s the cost?
For Service Design, there are only two real options for hiring and both are at a senior level.
Junior or mid-level service designers don’t really exist due to the strategic level of the role. It’s like looking for a junior-mid CTO, it just doesn’t happen. You don’t expect someone junior in any role to give strategic direction on your products and the business operations surrounding it.
You need someone who has vast experience design knowledge and a deep understanding of how the wider business functions impact a product and someone that views product functions in tangent with the business operations. It is certainly a mindset that exists within UX design, where many service designers transition from, but again it is typically highly experienced UX designers that make this move across. From a startup’s perspective, if you’re investing in a Service Design function then this individual should be embedded within the C-suite leadership team and have access to all functions within the business to maximise their effectiveness.
Consultant: £600+ p/day
Test the waters… the easiest way to do that is to have someone conduct a service design review for your business. We’ve implemented a service design review for a startup, which was a great opportunity for a business who had built an MVP. Even if you have that service designer focus on one specific part of your product and its service interaction with a customer, and enable them to look at every business function that ties into that, you will likely get a taste for what service design can do for your business without committing to a full time hire.
Again, we’ve seen the success something like this can bring in the short term. Having someone take a holistic view of a specific part of your product, where you are potentially struggling, can have a quick impact and build an internal case study for the benefits of service design for your business.
As the only real Service Design hire will be senior, you’ll be looking in this range. This may change over time as more people are exposed to the practice, but this is a role where the designer really needs to stand on their own two feet as outlined above. This is an investment, but the value of design leadership for any product or service with users cannot be overstated. The successful businesses are the ones who are putting the user experience at the heart of their business, and investing in service design along with this.
For a lot of the businesses we work with, this sort of information is new, and a lot of the Founders and CEOs we engage with won’t be familiar with this sort of skillset. I highly recommend visiting the Service Design Network, take a look at some of the case studies to further understand the benefits and the ROI large businesses like Tesco have seen through investment in this function.
This series has largely been produced to help advocate for Design and UX functions within startups and offer guidance to our existing customer base, as well as any potential startups out there that are trying & struggling to navigate scaling functions such as these within the business.
For links to the previous blogs:
1. UX Design
We hope you’ve enjoyed this series and would really appreciate if you could share with people in your network. We’re a startup ourselves and a like and a share really does mean a lot.
If there’s a specific Product or Tech skillset that you’d like more guidance on, or are actively looking to hire, get in touch today, we’d love to speak with you.