Saturday, April 24, 2010

Service Design and the Customer’s Journey

Park-Advert. Source: (Flickr)Call it by other names – multi-channel service design, customer relationship management, cross-channel experience design, customer experience. We’re talking about how people interact with a whole system, over time.

To get your head around it, think about the customer’s journey. We have no control over the path our customers use. They approach us from all angles... from our website, some else’s website, phone, kiosk, bricks-and-mortar location, help desk, walking billboard, social media locale. They go where ever they will to get further information or complete a transaction. From the customer’s point of view, they’re just interacting with our brand. And they don’t care about what channel they’re using.

That’s why we have to care.

Service Design is Hot

Designing for the customer experience was one of four main themes of this year’s IA Summit. Four sessions I attended either addressed it directly or used work products from a service design exercise to make a point. Outside that conference, the topic is either just emerging or has been around for decades, depending on where you look. Recently it’s been talked about in Peter Morville’s Ubiquitous Service Design blogpost, by Tim Brown of IDEO on Design Thinking last year at TED, and in web collections such as ServiceDesignTools and the Flickr Service Design group.

Tools for Service Design

Service design can be integrated into user experience projects with some tools to help organize your design thinking and communicate and collaborate with your clients about it.

The first step in grappling with designing for the whole customer experience is to create a simple Service Inventory. Identify 1) the touchpoints where the user interacts with the company or product, and 2) the services being provided by the company or product. Then create a grid with touchpoints along the top and services as rows, and fill in the details.

Service Inventory. Source: nForm

A number of examples of the Service Inventory appeared throughout sessions at the IA Summit, including the Leaving Flatland: Cross-Channel Customer Experience Design workshop, Pervasive IA for the Augmented Tomorrow session, and the Vanguard Experience Strategy session. Other templates are available online, for instance on Flickr and ServiceDesignTools.

A next step is to come up with a Customer Service Blueprint. This is more elaborated view of the system, which 1) differentiates services that are visible to the user and those that are backstage, and 2) shows relationships among and journeys through the services and touchpoints.

Customer Service Blueprint. Source: Adaptive Path

A third tool called a Service Prototype models or mocks-up the customer experience. For example, Business Origami, created by Hitachi and adapted by nForm, is a tabletop tool that simulates the service experience through specific touchpoints. It’s used to describe current states and explore future scenarios. For instance, at their IA Summit workshop Jess McMullin and Samantha Starmer had participants use Business Origami to map scenarios for services within a conference hotel environment.

Business Origami. Source: nForm. Photo: Stacy Surla

As with all these tools, a Service Prototype can be workshopped by the design team or created in collaboration with clients, designers, and users.

Selling Service Design

Along with many service channels come many service owners. How can you convince all these stakeholders you have insights that can improve the customer experience? A couple of tips and thoughts:

  • Look into how service owners get incentivized when transactions happen via channels other than their own. Work those angles (and/or suggest a business process improvement that adds such incentives).
  • Let your metrics include success across channels – e.g. does your email newsletter also drive traffic to the retail store?
  • Don’t try to boil the ocean; instead think about channel pairs. For instance, make connections between the call center and the website.
  • Tell stories – fairy tales – about how experience could be and should be for your customers.

Put It Into Play

In short, just step up to the plate and own the passages that make up your customer’s journey. By the use of some straight-forward tools and processes (which are mostly extensions of items that should be in your user experience toolkit already), you can incorporate service design thinking and deliverables into your overall practice.

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