Self Service (Design)

For most of this year I have been coming across the term ‘service design’ time and again and to be honest never really knew with any certainty the detail of what was behind it but due to the context of where I read it I kind of created my own definition.

The frequency of mentions has been growing though so this weekend (as I had an antibiotics enforced quiet Saturday) I thought I would dig (a little) deeper.

Thanks to the power of the Kindle store I downloaded Service Design: From Insight to Implementation and spent a couple of hours speed reading it. Then I did the same with my new ebook version of the GDS Service Manual (thanks again Zak!) to see how the two synched up.

I found the Service Design book an interesting skim read and I intend to spend a bit of my commute in the weeks to come spending more time on some of the chapters.

Wikipedia has this nice definition of ‘service design’;

“The purpose of service design methodologies is to design according to the needs of customers or participants, so that the service is user-friendly, competitive and relevant to the customers.”

So it would seem that ‘service design’ is what I have been trying to do these last few years 🙂 Though it is clear that what separates ‘service design’ from related fields like user experience design is the scale and the breadth of the scope – it seems to be about making changes at an organisational level.

The major focus on not only the user experience but also on the experience of the provider of the ‘service’ is an important lesson and the considerable focus on real user research and the idea of ‘co-design’ seems obvious if not well understood yet by the powers that be.

[Given it is a current preoccupation of mine I particularly like their take on personas as ‘insight boards’ as it chimes better with me than than the narrative style personas I keep encountering]

There is a great line in the book about ‘expectations vs experiences’;

“..perceived quality is defined by the gap between what people expect and what they actually experience.”

For us this is a continuing issue. People don’t really expect that much but for the most part their experiences still don’t measure up!

I think it will be an interesting experiment to try and map our ONS stuff against a service design ‘blueprint’ as described in the book – I am not sure how well we would fit. Despite internal terminology we aren’t really a ‘product’ based organisation in the classic manner but also I am not convinced (currently) we are really a service organisation either! The customer journey maps should be a more straightforward fit however and something that we are clearly missing out on.

I also love the fact that the methodology heavily endorses prototyping – and that prototypes require the ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ to be fully successful. Quite a lot of this chimes with the ‘Lean start-up‘ school of thinking which probably isn’t that surprising.

[I like the use of the term ‘simulation’ for a functional prototype as well.]

Also like the Lean startup stuff there is a major focus on measurement – though less preoccupied with data and analytics and more with things like SERQUAL and RATER (Reliability, Assurance, Tangibles, Empathy, Responsiveness) frameworks to measure customer perceptions of service quality – I might be wrong about this bit though it was near the end of Return of the Jedi was on 🙂

I haven’t really touched on the linkages with the GDS manual – maybe I’ll do that in another post sometime. One thing I will say after reading the manual front to back for the first time is that when the GDS grand plan really sets in across the public sector I am pretty sure that will be it for me as I don’t fit in well with any of the key roles they outline!

5 responses to “Self Service (Design)”

  1. Chris – cheers. Either Zak or I will publish the link to the GDS ebook once a few final tests are done (I’m basically the alpha tester) but it will be available soon..

  2. Hey Matt, found your post via Google Alerts. Service design thinking is growing in popularity for several reasons, the most prominent of whic is that design thinking and other processes that pay closer attention to organizational change and focusing on the audience are extending outwards from start-up culture and the private sector into the public and non-profit sector.

  3. Matt, interesting post. I had my first introduction to service design at a Cardiff Univerity breakfast lecture with Michelle Rose-Innes (@roseinness) a few weeks ago. Provided some useful views on mapping touch points on a service design template and creating peronas.The guys at CH will be taking a closer look.

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