How to use service design for validating ideas

How to use service design to quickly validate ideas to create and manage great customer experiences.

Running a good business requires more than just selling a high-quality product. Customers now demand excellence in their experiences and are less forgiving to issues.

When it comes to gaining and retaining happy customers, businesses need to offer products and services that address their true needs and add value to their lives.

Multi-channel businesses are required to adapt and respond to changes in market trends. A human-centric approach that enables value creation without sacrificing business goals requires a well-coordinated organisation that understands its customers and aligns business needs with its customers' needs.

Service design provides an extensive toolkit to help organisations create and manage great customer experiences that enable value exchange with their customers.

Silos be gone: Service design to encourage organisational change

The Industrial Revolution supported organisations that were packaged up nicely in silos and led by a top-down approach. Today’s circumstances question the validity of that structure.

Siloed structures have now lost their advantage in the fast-paced, innovation-driven environment. Their process is slow, wasteful and rigid.

Understanding how good or bad your customers’ experience is with your product/service requires moving away from a top-down management structure.

The aim of employing a Service Design approach is to create a cross-discipline structure with short feedback loops from the customer to feed decisions. This approach is an iterative process that is human-centric and allows a company to better respond to turbulent market trends.

Experience beyond digital: service design in software development

Experience beyond Digital | Red Badger

At Red Badger, as software consultants, we help our clients create value for their customers by improving the experience with digital touchpoints.

Software development has transformed rapidly over the past decade, thanks to the Lean methodology. Software development can now move in swift iterative cycles with constant validation and incremental improvements.

With the ubiquity of technology approaching it’s easy to get sucked into just focusing on websites and hoping a great digital experience will be the silver bullet to make every customer happy. The truth is, there is more to a customer’s experience than what appears on a website.

“ The problem is that customers don’t just care about individual touchpoints. They experience services in totality and base their judgment on how well everything works together to provide them with value ”

— Andy Polaine

Service Design not only allows you to uncover customer needs and desires but also gives you the tools to understand how your business works to meet those needs.

Introducing the Service Blueprint

Introducing the Service Blueprint | Red Badger

The best tool to align business operations with the customer journey (and my personal favourite) is the Service Blueprint. You can think of it as a bird’s eye view of your whole business. It maps out how the customer’s journey unfolds over time and how business operations work to support it.

There are three main building blocks of a service blueprint. They are:

  1. The user journey:

    The customer actions from when they first become aware of a product/service to when they leave it.

  2. The business operations (Front Stage):

    The mix of physical and digital touchpoints that the customer interacts with throughout every step of the journey.

  3. Support mechanisms (Backstage):

    The supporting actors to the internal operations which are typically unseen by the customers. Such as the IT department, suppliers, warehouses, landlords etc.

When to blueprint?

There’s no “perfect time” to create a service blueprint; it’ll be eye-opening no matter when you do it. There are certain sweet spots when as a team you might benefit the most from doing it:

  • You want to improve your service (+ customer experience)
  • To organise and optimise your business operations
  • You are adding a new service to your existing offer
  • You are creating a new service/ starting a new business

When you want to develop a new product or service from the ground up, you can use the blueprint to make sure all the operations line up and work in harmony from the beginning.

Or if you’re using it as a diagnostic tool, to identify problems and seek new opportunities, the blueprint will highlight pain points that you can focus on and improve.

Building the service blueprint

The first step to building a blueprint is to get stakeholders of the business or project together. The key is to visualise what’s going on and encourage knowledge sharing.

Breaking the whole organisational structure down to bite-size pieces is the best approach to avoid getting overwhelmed.

  • Start by agreeing on a scope and thinking about your customer. Use existing research and knowledge you have to build the customer's journey of interacting with your product/service. If you have huge gaps and lots of unknowns, your can mark these and come back to them with more insight. The goal is to get a complete picture and understand how your customers feel throughout their experience with you.

  • Now think about what and who your customer has interacted with in each step, the front-stage channels (i.e. if they have created an account as part of their journey, the touch-points might be an online form, in-store staff, or via the phone)

  • The last part is why you need someone who knows the business inside out present. This is the backstage operations, what goes on behind the curtain to keep the operations moving. (i.e. 3rd party delivery companies)

Now that you have a picture of how your business runs and how the operations align with the customer’s journey, you can identify gaps, pain points and iterate on them.

There are various ways to generate ideas and to validate them with prototypes. Our favourite is running Design Sprints (developed by Google Ventures) and getting a testable prototype in front of customers in 5 days.

A powerful communication tool 

The Service Blueprint is the map of your customer's relation with the whole business. It challenges your company structure and brings the silos around a single touchpoint; your customer. Use it however you want: to identify the problem, to generate a solution or to measure the impact of a proposed solution.

Don’t forget that the service blueprint is mostly a communication tool. It can be used as a canvas to represent the status quo as well as to visualise change.

Come back to the blueprint to see how your solutions impact the overall journey. Referring back to the service blueprint to analyse the impact of your ideas will allow you to visualise and measure how your investment efforts affect the wider business (and the customer experience).

Happy blueprinting!

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