“Technology can dehumanize and make things harder to navigate for customers and less flexible. Service design offers tools to domesticate and humanize technology.”
Service Design For Business by Ben Reason, Lavrans Lovlie and Melvin Brand Flu is a practical guide to optimizing customer experience. The book is targeted to people in businesses and large organizations. It is specially written for those involved in B2B, B2C and government services. The main focus of the book is to design the business with the customer as the centre of the universe.
I believe that small businesses should pay special attention to the concepts from in the book. Small businesses are generally much closer to their customer’s hearts than big businesses, and can see tremendous impact from capitalizing their customer focus.
Design Service Around Customer’s Needs
"Taking a customer-needs driven approach as the basis for digital developments provides a unique opportunity to reduce complexity in your services. Taking out activities that slow down the customer will provide the efficiencies that digital promised."
Successful businesses have a fair amount of practice in spotting the market trends. Yet, there is often a disconnect between the insight and action, as changes can be challenging. The customer’s needs are changing rapidly (thanks to the digital revolution), however, the changes in businesses infrastructure are slow and difficult.
Traditionally, services are based on the infrastructure, resources, and capacity to deliver. Today, we need to develop new business concepts with customer-centric approach. There are three ways you can do that:
- collate pain points,
- map customer, and market trends onto lifecycles, and
- validate new concepts by using scenarios and storytelling.
It’s important to find ways to test and pilot new concepts through prototyping. Collecting feedback to improve the service is what it’s all about. This can be best achieved by taking advantage of digital technologies.
Becoming a more digitally focused business also makes your service delivery more efficient. It’s easy to start up with digital but it quickly becomes complex and challenging as the business scales. To reduce this complexity, think of “digital” as just another way to meet customer needs.
Track customer performance during the four stages of customer experiences: before, beginning, during, and after. This allows you to identify when to inspire, support or enable them. Customer performance is measuring the extent to which the customers are using your service.The key takeaway is that your service is an enabler of customer performance. Both businesses and customers need to perform well for a service to be a success. Following agile process lets you do that.
To become agile, you need to create a clear, shared view (with customers and staff alike) of what you deliver to customers, and how each area of your business make it happen. This shared view of customer experience is represented visually with Customer Lifecycle. It is a scenario building or storytelling tool that covers each stage (before, beginning, during and after).
The next step is to involve customers in the development phase through prototypes. In this phase we collect insights to map the areas of low and high performances.
In other words, document customer needs into three areas: the need for information, interaction, and transaction.
Information enables the customer to make decisions. It helps them stay in control of their service usage, and service contract. This information has to be clear and usable. Lack of information leads to fewer sales, more calls for help, and less satisfaction.
Interactions are exchanges between customers and the business representatives. These enable the customer to make decisions and apply the services to themselves through a two-way interaction. These are difficult to change.
Transactions are where the monetary exchanges happen. Setting up the customer on the system, and dealing with their payments and defaults has to be a robust and stable process.
The Service Blueprint
"The service blueprint can help do this: it gives a visual overview of all bits that constitute a service. The blueprint helps people in different areas of the organization see their part of the whole and resolves service delivery issues in a customer-oriented manner."
The service blueprint helps you to get a bird’s eye view on how the different elements of service work together. It shows you how this working together create value for customers.
The three main parts of a service blueprint are
- Movement of customer within a service (journey from first awareness to buying the service to leaving it and anything in between)
- Structure of an organization (teams, departments, or functions, etc.)
- Behaviour of the customers, staffs or technologies
Like any good story, the narrative structure of service blueprint has a before, beginning, during, and after state. Customer lifecycles are frameworks are our map to the experience that our ideal customers have with our services.
The Customer Story
"Customers have stories - stories about what they are doing in their lives, about their work, leisure, and journeys. These stories have highs and lows and make up the experiences of life."
Customer stories and their experiences are impacted by the services they use. Their part in successful service delivery is impacted by this story.
If you think about it, how you are: transporting (buses, cars, taxis, bikes, etc.), eating (food vendors, restaurants, takeaways, etc.), managing money (banking with ATMs, internet banking, telephone banking, credit cards, etc.), and the other stuff you do, such as visiting hospitals or claiming insurance, are some examples of what goes into your story.
Often businesses are so focused on their operations that they do not consider the customer’s role in the successful delivery of the service.
So how does this help us to develop and deliver customer excellence in practice?
The customer stories help us identify customer irritations and failures. Complaints are good starting point to understand customer irritations. If we begin with understanding these irritations, we can systematically eliminate them. Removing these irritations make it easier for customers to buy a service. It also takes away the motivation to switch to a different service provider.
The overarching theme of the book is for businesses to become customer centric. This means businesses need to be agile in response to customer demand and technology.
This is a brilliant book if you are looking for a casual read. It will give you a clear understanding of what needs to be done to design a new service. However, it can’t be used as a field manual. Having worked with my consulting clients in developing, marketing, selling and delivering various products and services, I used my imagination fill in the gaps.
It may not be helpful for beginners though. I’d recommend you read Eric Reis’s The Lean Startup before this one if you are a beginner.
Here’s how I see businesses (small and large) using this book:
- Choose to become a customer centric organization
- Identify customer pain points (or needs) and start designing your service from there
- Sketch the customer journey and identify where pain points occur
- If these don’t fit in one customer journey, then put them in the customer lifecycle for a different journey for different services
- Plan your infrastructure to deliver the ideal experience at each stage
- Involve the customers at every stage of development (during prototyping process)
- Document the customer performance, queries, and irritations at every stage
- Make improvements based on the feedback from customers
By using the customers in prototypes you are virtually guaranteed to deliver a service that is in demand and will please its users. The feedback loop doesn’t stop there. Even when the service is available commercially, it should be constantly evolving from customer feedback. This way you don’t have to ship the perfect service from the start. Just ship a good enough service, and improve it based on customers feedback.
How are you putting customers at the center of your business?