Ispirazione per il service design

Nota Aicex: il service design mette l’utente di un servizio al centro. Creando una service journey si analizza il processo dal fornitore all’utente finale e si riesce ad avere un’idea di ciò che il servizio dovrebbe essere. L’articolo ci propone alcuni interessanti case studies.

Service design places the user of a service at the center. If you look at the process from supplier to end user as a service journey, you get an accurate picture of what your service design should look like. Read the most important advice and inspiring case studies here.

In our daily lives we avail of services constantly. When we check our online bank with our mobile phone, deliver our children at kindergarten or school, or when we book a flight to our next holiday destination, we use a service. Often we do not think about our increased consumption of services – mostly we do it only when something goes wrong or when we’ve been pleasantly surprised.

Kforum 12A service journey in paper clippings.

Look at the entire service journey

The service industry is growing and growing. In Denmark it represents approximately 75 percent of our gross domestic product. More and more private and public institutions and companies are becoming conscious about designing services which put users at the center, ensuring that quality is as high as possible. In this article you will find the most important points that are worth considering if you need to give your service a service inspection.

A very useful point of engagement is to look at the full service journey. So that you can identify where you do too little or perhaps too much, where to begin and where to end your service, what you should do yourself and what you should leave to others.

1) Have you got hold of your most important users?

Often we focus exclusively on the end user when developing services. A one-sided focus on those who will use the service, however, can block our ability to see significant development potential. We simply overlook the most important people.

When working with service journeys, we talk about what happens front stage, where the consumer is in direct contact with a service. And what happens backstage, that is, the underlying processes, which can be crucial when a successful service is being designed. Sometimes the most important users are, in fact, backstage.

When the lead character is a supporting character

Case: Frederiksberg Health Center

Frederiksberg’s Health Center developed, in collaboration with the design firm 1508, a rehabilitation process intended to help people with COPD, also known as emphysema, remain in the labor market. Lifestyle changes are often seen as a daunting task for the chronically ill. Just finding the required resources for the necessary changes can be difficult. Therefore, patients alone were not the sole focus in the design of a new service process.

Employees at the health center, doctors and relatives turned out to be centrally important in order that COPD sufferers could create a better life for themselves with the disease. The composition of the new service was not, therefore, aimed directly at the front stage, meaning the patients. It was instead aimed at the backstage processes. When the new solution took shape, the starting point was the many actors around the patient.

For example, a plan of action was developed in which employees of the health center could help patients to identify goals for their rehabilitation. Thus, the health center could prioritize which offers patients should be given.

The lesson being: Be aware that the main actor may well be quite different from the person who is in direct contact with your service. Identify those actors surrounding the recipient of your service, and consider whether they might really be the most significant.

2) Service starts before and ends after your contact with the user

A service consists of many touchpoints. The experience often starts before and ends some time after the company’s product or service has been in contact with the user. It is precisely here that a service journey can be a useful tool for uncovering the entire process from the user’s perspective, and help identifying which periods are most important to your user. When does the service experience peak, seen through the eyes of the user?

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Virgin Atlantic discovered that good service is not limited to a good experience on board the plane. A quick and smooth check-in when flying is at least as important for the overall service experience.

Guides from start to finish

Case: Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic planned to re-design their flagship area at Heathrow Airport. They wanted to develop some services that could get people to choose their company over other airlines. Previously, they had primarily focused their efforts on services aboard their aircraft.

The British design company Engine was hired, and they chose to investigate the users’ service journey from the moment they left home for the airport, to when they had actually landed, collected their luggage and were sitting in a taxi on the way to their destination. By shadowing the travelers and interviewing them about their experiences, they were able to map the passengers’ ‘journeys’ through the terminal.

As a result of this process an effective and efficient service flow was designed. For example, a series of self-service stands were set up in the check-in area, supplemented by Virgin staff who functioned as guides at key entrances to the terminal.

From prison guards to advisors about life after prison

Case: Singapore Prison Service

For the Singapore Prison Service, one of the major challenges they faced was that many former prisoners returned to crime after being released. In fact, nearly half ended up in prison again. One of the first steps in tackling the challenge in new ways was to rethink how the public service process for prisoners ended.

Previously prison security had been the sole focus, now prison services looked at how to empower inmates to get out of crime. Resources were invested in educating families and other relatives so that they could best help the inmates when they were released from prison. Also, at the central level, interest groups and representatives of the administration were brought together to strengthen cooperation. The project ran over a ten year period, and over that time it proved possible to go from 45 percent of prisoners being given another prison sentence to the today’s figure of just 27 percent.

The lesson being: Good service consists often in seeing the product or public service process in context and from the perspective of a longer time period. Sometimes it pays to end contact later, so that the user is helped further along.

3) Identify the time periods that matter

On a service journey, the starting point is to get users to map their experience and identify the points on the journey where it is difficult, unsatisfactory or incomprehensible. You can work with so-called moments of truth, heart points or pain points. Meaning those parts of the service that hold great emotional significance for users, both positively and negatively. Once you know them, you can deploy resources to where users need it the most.

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Denmark has a hard time holding on to highly skilled foreign workers. Pain points during the journey were identified. It became clear that it was not just the foreign experts’ but their entire family’s level of satisfaction which was the crucial factor in deciding if they would remain in the country.

Keeping on foreign labor is a service that encompasses the whole family

Case: Ministry of Business and Growth

While Denmark lacked highly skilled foreign workers such as biotechnologists and engineers, the challenge lay not in attracting foreign experts, but in the fact that they left the country too quickly again. And that is expensive for both companies and public authorities.

In the past, resources were used to optimize the service offered to highly skilled foreign workers. But a service journey conducted by MindLab on behalf of the Ministry of Business and Growth made it clear that the most important thing is really how families experience the new country. Are there places available in an international school? Are there opportunities to meet other accompanying spouses in the same situation? Failure to thrive for the spouse or children often being the crucial reason why the family quickly leave the country again.

The lesson being: Be attentive to whether your service is targeted at the places that are most important to recipients. Identify the pain points and determine if your service has been designed to help in the right places.

4) You are not the only one who offers a service

Providing a good and effective service requires that we systematically turn our attention to what kind of alternative or experience we would like to achieve. Often, there are many actors involved along the way. We have seen examples of companies or public bodies who have set up an excellent and efficient service line that, unfortunately, just does not answer users’ actual needs. A service journey can help to ensure that you look at the overall experience and identify where there is potential for better interaction between the elements.

kforum 4Businesses no longer need to contact a range of different authorities in their search for the correct code for their industry. Authorities viewed their new service from a users’ perspective and adjusted the procedure so that all involved delivered a coherent service: A new self-service solution enables companies to find the right code in one place.

Industry Codes: A service that transcends

Case: Danish Business Authority

When SKAT, Statistics Denmark and the Danish Business Authority wanted to improve services for companies seeking to find their proper industry code, a service journey revealed that there was great potential gain in thinking about service across authorities.

A service journey was the impetus as MindLab helped develop a new self-service solution and an official site for the case officers working with industry codes. The new solution transcends the authorities and makes it easier for companies to find their industry code in one place. At the same time streamlining the regulatory procedures in the field. (Read about industry codes in an international case study from Helsinki Design Lab)

The lesson being: The recipient of the service does not distinguish between the various entities that make up the service. Look at who, besides yourself, participates in the provision of the service. Can you work together in new ways?

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In Australia, authorities worked with service packages for vulnerable families who encountered a plethora of public services. Here it became clear that it was a good idea to work on integrating all the various services across authorities.

Service across systems

Case: Vulnerable families in Australia

There proved to be great potential to work across authorities when the Australian service design company, ThinkPlace, examined service journeys in relation to some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

These were people who faced a variety of challenges, such as domestic violence, substance abuse, unemployment, financial problems and mental health issues. For this reason, families interacted with a variety of public services, which in themselves were well-run and had skilled social workers or other professionals attached. The challenge was that the variety of services were not integrated and therefore unable to budge the core of the problem. They each addressed only one part of the problem or only one family member.

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Outside of the vulnerable families a variety of actors, organizations and institutions hum with activity. But within the vulnerable family itself the status quo remains the same. The various authorities only view the challenge from one angle and fail to provide a comprehensive service.

The service was put together based on the system’s premises and not on how users can best be helped further across systems. In this project, the service journey proved a helpful tool to turn the view from the system’s angle to the user’s angle.

The lesson being: The basis for a good service must be to place oneself in the users’ situation and view the service from their angle. Otherwise, there is a risk that you end up optimizing a system service which doesn’t address the user’s actual problem.

5) Have you chosen the correct channel?

Service journeys can be a good starting point for evaluating if you have communicated with the right target groups at the right time and place. Did you choose the proper channel to carry the content of your service?  New target groups arise and new communication channels are added. So although satisfaction rates may be high among your users, and your choice of channel seems obvious, it pays to rethink the communication channels utilized and get ahead of latest user behavior trends and media use.

New channels led to greater satisfaction

Case:  Midwife Center

The Midwife Center at Aarhus University Hospital found that too many clients weren’t showing up for planned consultations. Surveys of users and occupational professionals showed that pregnant women were unsure of the purpose of the midwife appointment.

The mothers to be were craving information, and the internet was their preferred channel. Therefore, the midwife center chose to consider alternatives to face-to-face consultations. In cooperation with design firm, Designit, they developed, for example, a digital appointment book for pregnant women. Here the woman can log on to her own page, view scan pictures, coordinate midwife appointments, read educational materials and chat with professionals and other pregnant women.

The lesson being: To think about new communication channels and media when designing your service. Maybe you’ll meet your users’ needs much better utilizing new methods.

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A digital solution will complement traditional consultations at the Midwife Center at Aarhus University Hospital, so pregnant women experience a seamless service course.

6) Look at users – they have already solved it

Sometimes a new and improved service is right in front of our noses and in this respect the observation of users can be a great source of inspiration. Users often follow their own path and find creative solutions in the attempt to avoid bother or achieve a desired effect quickly. By observing their self-invented solutions, you can learn more about what needs are expressed through their unintended use of products or services.

It can be seen in urban settings, a good example being when architects at CBS established a beautiful path system, where gaps in the paving, however, caused cyclists and baby carriage owners to experience an uneven passage. In response to which users established their own paths in parallel to the architects’.

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When finely landscaped footpaths are not user friendly, users find new paths for themselves in parallel to those laid down by the architects.

The positive deviators have already found the solutions

Case: Prison and Probation Service, Køge Local Prison

The Prison and Probation Service has implemented a determined strategic approach and worked to resolve the tough challenge of growing conflicts between staff and inmates by systematically disseminating users’ existing solutions to problems.

The method is called positive deviation and relies on the recognition that there are always individuals who find sustainable behavioral strategies that enable them to succeed better than others in the same situation. Employees have often already identified a workable solution.

By working to reveal positively divergent behavior and apply it to other situations Køge Local Prison has achieved a concrete, significant reduction of conflicts between inmates and staff, a fall in the use of force, violence and threats plus a far higher level of satisfaction among personnel.

And it is the small deviations that matter. It makes a difference to the relationship, for example, if an officer remains sitting with his feet up when an inmate calls for help, or if he hurries to assist. Or if he knocks on an inmate’s cell door and waits for a moment before he sticks the key in the door instead of tearing the door open.

The lesson being: It is important to look for positive deviations. And they are always there, just as long as you look hard enough.

7) Good service is not always more service

To rethink and optimize a service is often postponed because both companies and public authorities associate good service with multiple touchpoints, more communication, or more attentiveness on the whole to the customer or citizen. And that is both expensive and difficult – and consumes resources that you do not have.

But in fact the exact opposite is often the case. It may be that a simplified and more focused service is much more effective. And here the visual mapping of a service journey can be the first step towards pointing out how a service could be simplified.

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A mapping of the communication from the National Board of Industrial Injuries showed that they needed to simplify their communications. In fact, there were far too many letters sent and at the wrong times. The Board of Industrial Injuries now works on prioritizing their communications.

Less service is more service

Case: National Board of Industrial Injuries

MindLab observed this at the Board of Industrial Injuries, who wanted to know how they could make the process for young people with injuries go more smoothly. At that time, the Board was in the habit of posting many letters to those with work related injuries. And there were many others who did the same. Among others, the municipality, labor union, medical specialists, insurance companies and many other players who had a share in the process.

Which added up to an awful lot of letters. A young social and health care worker received, for example, 25 letters, only four of which required a reply. Often written in difficult to understand legal jargon.

A service journey showed the potential gain in finding a simpler service, where a clear prioritization of information transmitted to the injured person was made.  Instead of sending many letters, the board now works on prioritizing their communications while at the same time writing in language that the recipient can understand and relate to their own situation.

The lesson being: It is a good idea to look at each individual step in the service and consider whether it can be simplified. Too much communication which is difficult to understand is often a source of frustration and uncertainty for the user.

8) A good service journey can save time, resources and money

When services are designed to meet user needs and perceived challenges, it is done, of course, to generate significantly improved user satisfaction. But it is just as much about streamlining and optimizing. Service design can help to ensure that an organization or company offers the appropriate and relevant services and tools for its users – and can therefore also dispense with the elements or services that do not create additional value.

Simple and straightforward design solutions make a difference to the emergency room

Case: PearsonLloyd

A good example of how the proper design of a service can actively contribute to efficiency can be seen in a project design duo, PearsonLloyd, implemented at a London hospital emergency room. Here the patients grew so frustrated as they waited to be treated that it led to verbal and physical violence against employees.

This obviously created a poor working environment and too many resources were expended on chaos handling. It was found that patients felt they had a right to be angry because they lacked knowledge of how things worked.

PearsonLloyd developed a number of solutions. For example, signage information indicating where patients were in the department, and how far in the process they had reached. This was a matter of simple solutions that were easy and cheap to implement. The initiative resulted in a reduction of aggressive encounters and a subsequent business case revealed that for each pound invested in new solutions the return was threefold.

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An investment in simple solutions which are easy and inexpensive to implement can give rapid and visible results on the bottom line.

Read more:

Many, both in Denmark and internationally, are already working with this method. Many happily share their tool kits. Here is a list of the best and most useful tools you will need if you want to work with service journeys.

By Runa Sabroe


AICEX Customer Experience Italian Association


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