March 1, 2017

Key principles to superior service design

By: Jaeson Paul, Director of User Experience

Service Design is the practice of evaluating, understanding, and optimizing a full customer experience over time and across multiple touchpoints. It includes strategy, UX, product design, process analysis, and marketing – all of which, taken on their own, are rich disciplines. With such a large purview, the challenge is often knowing what’s critical to getting it right.

Keys to success

At Comrade, we’ve found that there are 5 key principles that, when followed, put the right discipline in place to ensure you’re covering what’s most important.

1. Create customer journeys that are data-led and include all perspectives

We all know research is an important part of the design process – you must understand your user to design for their needs. Just knowing your user is not enough, however. To put a whole service in the right context, you need to understand the systems, the processes, and the perspectives of all the participants – back office, front office, user, etc. – in both qualitative and quantitative terms.

2. Use powerful stories to make one clear point

A story that tries to be about everything ends up being a story about nothing. Effective stories, gleaned from observation or conceived as visions, have one clear, definable message. The details that bring that message into focus may be many, but if you can’t communicate the message so people understand it in a sentence or two,  the power of the story is lost.

3. Give outcomes top priority over tools and deliverables

Beautiful documents and artifacts can be powerful. They convey confidence, credibility, and gravity to your message. It’s easy to get distracted by the impulse to revise and refine journey maps until they are perfectly elegant models of the reality they are trying to represent.  This is a distraction from the purpose of the deliverable, which is the understanding and alignment – the conversation – they exist to support. If perfecting the artifact is competing with building understanding, you have to let it go.

4. Use the scientific method – start with a hypothesis

Never begin your process with a blank slate. At all times in the service design process, you should be testing a hypothesis of some kind – something that can be clearly shown to be true or false by the research and exploration you’re doing. It’s often tempting to do research “just to see what we learn.” Don’t fall for this trap. Yes, you’ll discover new things and pick up interesting facts and insights – but the art of service design is in the interpretation that leads to action, and for that you need clear messages of confirmation or negation (see #2 above). And don’t forget – finding out your hypothesis was wrong is every bit as valuable as proving it’s right.

5. Balance customer and business value

User-centered design has taken us a long way from the days of engineering-led, feature-centric tools and systems that were difficult to understand and use. When it comes to service design, the customer perspective is no less critical – perhaps even more – than it is in UX and product design contexts. But you need more than just happy users to create a successful service. Operations, revenues, product roadmaps, and a host of other considerations that never enter the users’ minds are just as important to creating a successful journey, one the business and customer share and that generates value for both. If you make a product customers love, but can’t make money, it won’t be around for them to enjoy for very long. Don’t forget feasibility – if it can’t be built, it won’t be around for customers to enjoy at all.

Discipline and creativity can coexist

Discipline and creativity are often thought to be at odds with one another, but this isn’t true. Making something beautiful that customers love, in a way that is feasible and realistic, that makes economic sense and has business viability requires thinking with the heart, the head and the wallet all at the same time. Establishing and following the right principles allows discipline to become the servant of creativity, as well as its champion – making it possible to turn the visions we dream up into a reality we can all experience. When that happens, truly successful and meaningful customer journeys and relationships become possible.