Service Design Toolkit: Delivering amazing experiences

by Stephen Tomlinson on 1 February 2017

The Service Design Toolkit helps you design customer-centred services. It focuses on the interactions that customers have with your service, as well as the behind-the-scenes people and processes that enable these interactions. By thinking about your customer service in this holistic way, it allows you to design a better experience for the end user.

At Webcredible we have been using service design to transform digital services that integrate seamlessly with existing physical services. We worked with the NHS to envisage a digital 111 service that integrates with the existing telephone service. We have helped retailers integrate their digital presence with their high street stores, and worked with charities to connect people through services such as befriending.

Through this work we have developed a framework for how we approach service design.

Ultimately, service design is another lens through which to view user centred design and uses many of the techniques and principles familiar to interaction designers.

Start with user needs

We always start with user needs. Do research to identify real user needs, and design your service to help users achieve their goals.

You can use a variety of research methods, from observing users using products and services to developing personas. For the NHS 111 service, we spoke to over 100 users and 30 healthcare representatives from across the UK to get a clear picture of how they used the service, and what sort of edge cases it needed to tackle.

If you already have a service, evaluate the existing customer journey to find opportunities and pain points. You can also evaluate your competitors — think of their services as free prototypes. Be creative about who your competitors are. Uber is competing with taxi companies, but by getting someone from A to B, Google Maps is also a competitor.

Gather input from across your organisation

Because services involve so many components, gathering input from across your organisation is essential.

We frequently find organisational structure is one of the biggest blockers to a successful user experience and it is therefore essential to get buy-in and input from across your team. Run co-design sessions, where people from across the organisation work together to identify opportunities and brainstorm solutions.

You should observe and interview not only your front-line staff such as call centre employees, retail staff or customer services, but also the behind-the-scenes staff that work on supporting processes that deliver your service such as warehouse staff.

Map out your service

Create a service blueprint to join all the disparate touchpoints, people and processes that comprise your service. Blueprinting allows you to evaluate the service holistically, identify potential bottlenecks and simplify the experience by eliminating unnecessary steps.

Blueprints are focussed on delivery of the service, but are still customer-centric. We split touchpoints into front-stage, those that the customer sees and interacts with such as shop floor staff, email comms or a website, and back-stage, interactions and processes that happen behind the scenes to deliver the service.

Use prototypes to test new ideas

Use prototypes to explore and test different design solutions before you commit to building anything. Prototypes can be anything from paper sketches to an interactive website. The key thing to remember is that prototypes are design props that are used to learn. They should be malleable and discarded once they have served their purpose.

We worked with Public Health England to design an online assessment platform for health apps. During the design phase, we used online tools such as Google Docs and Gmail to simulate an online platform, allowing us to quickly learn what sort of tools we needed to build and evaluate the content the service needed.

Launch and iterate

Successful services are used over and over again, and improve through constant iteration and optimisation. Focus on processes not projects. Identify metrics to evaluate performance and use this data to drive new features and remove features that aren't working. This is how services evolve from a minimum viable product, to something as established and successful as Uber, Google Maps or Airbnb.

Ultimately, service design is another lens through which to view user centred design and uses many of the techniques and principles familiar to interaction designers. By applying these techniques to a variety of touchpoints, we can design an exceptional customer experience that works across all channels.

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