Great service design isn’t only about making moments that are effective and efficient. It’s also about creating magic...finding special moments to surprise and delight customers in ways they’ll never forget.
— Ilya Prokopoff, Managing Director & Partner, IDEO SF

It’s really easy to think that everything can be solved by technology or a systems based approach. Looking back over the past 10 years, there are infinite ways in which transactions, services and products have been improved (as a result, making things easier for us humans) because systems have improved; become slicker, faster, more accurate. In some cases, it has made old behaviours completely obsolete.

There are also infinite ways in which it has actually made things more frustrating, exacerbating social issues such as isolation and exclusion.

So what are the former companies doing that others aren’t? Well, they’ve simply retained a human focus.

Service design is a fundamental part of making this happen. As an Innovation Lab Designer, this is actually huge part of what we do - working with colleagues to help them frame their service improvements with the customer in mind, designing these in through service blueprints and creating numerous prototypes so we can test out whether the new ideas will work.

We can’t hide away from the ever increasing systems driven world and we absolutely shouldn’t. In fact, we should be selecting the best bits relevant for each service so that your customers’ journey (both internal and external, I should add) remain effective and positive. We thought this would be an interesting topic for our latest #blabchat and as usual, we weren’t disappointed!

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People are interesting. They are incredibly complex and no two are the same, but many organisations still insist on a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Organisations that lose sight of changing needs and demographics will quickly become dated and consigned to history, so a human centred approach is essential to staying relevant and in demand. This applies to everyone - not just for profit, commercial organisations. No one has something that important that people have no choice in selecting your product/service. Gaby sums this up perfectly:

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Appreciating these changes and putting a focus on the moments that matter is essential to survival. As Philippa says below, the trick is to automate what can and should be, yet build plenty of social opportunities into the service at the key moments that add the highest value. Salma is right in that not all services need a human touch - that is why some behaviours are now obsolete of course, but deployed at the right time, in the right manner, human interaction can actually be beneficial and, dare I say it, more efficient than Siri or Alexa. Although honestly, ask Siri to rap or beatbox for you - it’s a thing of beauty….

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Services can be delivered digitally, physically or interpersonally and the best companies use a mixture of these to deliver outputs. By knowing your customers and the critical moments, you can select the right medium through which to deliver. Depending on the moment, this could be heavily automated, heavily person centred or somewhere in between. As Paul says, it’s about recognising individual identity and designing a process that respects that….

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After this question, there was a really interesting conversation around hairdressers. Hairdressers are talented individuals but are also ultra human centred. Think about the last time you sat in the chair - you probably spoke about all manner of things, potentially divulging items about your personal life that you wouldn’t normally give to a complete stranger. These highly tuned interpersonal skills are the reason why you do this, so whilst all of us can’t necessarily pick up a pair of scissors, we can all learn something around how they cultivate these relationships and use this learning in our day to day roles.

Other suggestions ranged from Premier Inn, Morrisons and of course, our favourite here in the Lab, Monzo. As Julie says, they may be offering a service similar to the legacy banks but by switching up their focus and reimagining banking around consumers, they have managed to create something that feels new and exciting, acknowledging the changing needs around banking and budgeting as well as establishing a commitment to continuous improvement that ensures constant iterations on their service offer to keep it at the optimum point.

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For me, this is simple - we just need to stop reiterating this idea. I’m not alone in this thinking. Without sounding like a broken record, it’s all about balance.

As Jodi points out, efficiency doesn’t always mean quicker - efficient is about getting the right result first time. That might actually mean we need to add in a few steps to get there, but surely getting it right first time is better than double handling or, the absolute worst, over promising and underdelivering!

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As Neil and Miranda say, don’t get distracted by the next shiny thing. Stop and think about what you are trying to achieve and whether automation is going to add any value. Same goes for human interaction - if it makes something unnecessarily complex and isn’t actually required, whilst it might be a ‘nice to do’, you need to challenge your thinking.

There are areas where automation is the obvious choice - transactional operations that are very high volume, low skill are the obvious places you would want to start. It shouldn’t be obvious that a particular element is automated. Customers and colleagues should just see a seamless transition from one part of the journey to the next. Physical interactions are great for those ‘grey’ areas - our silicon friends are great at black and white, but when it goes all fifty shades, we have problems. Human beings can use feeling and emotion to quickly build a rapport and figure out the issue or opportunity more accurately than a computer ever will.

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Trust is the magical thread that binds organisations with their customers. If this becomes frayed or even starts to loosen a little, this affects customer behaviours and ultimately, their relationship with you. In the social age, relationships are no longer consigned to between two parties - they can be played out in the public arena with thousands of spectators, who may also question their current or potential relationship with you. The old saying of ‘if a customer is dissatisfied, they will tell ten of their friends’ doesn’t apply anymore. Instead, they will tell all their followers….

There isn’t really much more to add to this, so I’m going to let Jo, Amy, Angela and Danny round this off with their comments from Thursday:

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We’ll be back on Thursday 1st November 2018 at 8pm, so stay tuned for updates on the topic, but in the meantime, I’ll leave you with this comment from Jim Dean, which I think perfectly sums up this month’s session:

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About the Author

Michelle Butler joined the Bromford Lab in 2017 as a Lab Designer and is no stranger to taking a risk in search of learning more about the best way to foster innovation and transformation  - she left a full time permanent role to take up this position on a fixed term basis.

Michelle is incredibly passionate about design and customer experience, and is currently completing her Foundation Certificate in Design Thinking with IDEOU as a way of expanding her own knowledge and skills - connecting with a world renowned design community is a massive bonus too!

You can follow Michelle on Twitter,@ChelleKButler or on her blog