Natasha Barrett | 05.18.16 | Insights

Service Design: Learn By Doing


  • service design

At first glance, there are some things in our lives that we wouldn’t consider being a service or part of service delivery system. Is your credit card a service? Are the shows you watch on TV a service? Or how about the sidewalk that you tread on everyday? There are countless ways to describe service design. At Smashing Boxes, we help organizations and those curious about service design dive into fundamental tools and methods using hands-on approaches such as workshops and tailored training.

Service design is a proven methodology that enables organizations and service providers to holistically examine their offerings from the point of view that matters the most, the customer perspective. Service design is helpful when service providers are facing complex challenges that seem to go beyond their usual means of resolution. Not to say that companies do not see their customers’ experience as a priority, but companies sometimes have a hard time converting deep customer insights into seamless, meaningful interactions. All organizations can benefit from visiting the customer perspective to see how their services play out across channels, departments, touch points, and moments in real life.

In New Orleans, we hosted a workshop in which participants learned about service design by doing some contextual research and ideation methods. The first part of the workshop featured a method commonly used by service designers to make observations by participating the service themselves. It is called a service safari. The service at hand was sidewalks and our design challenge was “how can we reduce congestion on the sidewalks of downtown New Orleans?” Essentially, a sidewalk is service provided by the city to enable people to travel safely from one point to another.

Inside Notebook | Smashing Boxes Blog

As you can probably imagine, in order to participate in this service experience, we went for a walk on the sidewalks of New Orleans. Our safari had us walking the famous sidewalks of the French Quarter. In the French Quarter, there are ton of activities, interruptions, and touch points that contribute to sidewalk congestion. We used a framework called POEMS, which stands for People, Objects, Environments, Messages, and Services, to help us capture the service experience in our field notebooks. We noted things like restaurant workers taking a break under People, oversized plants that obstructed the sidewalk path under Objects, construction zones under Environment, “it’s okay to cross” communicated by the cross walk signs under Message, and pedicabs under Service.

New Orleans Service Safari | Smashing Boxes Blog

Once we were done with our service safari, we gathered at a bar to have drinks and take our findings from contextual research to the next level. During the second half of the workshop, we practiced two ideation methods, lateral thinking and customer journey mapping. Lateral thinking is realizing that there could be more than one path to a solution. For instance, at first you may say 5+5 is the only way to get to 10. But lateral thinking takes the time to come up with as many solutions as possible before moving forward, such as 2×5 or -12+22. Lateral thinking also involves learning from unexpected contexts. To kick off our lateral thinking exercise, everyone jotted down as many findings as they could in three minutes from their notebooks onto individual index cards. We collected all index cards and shook them all up in a shoebox. Next, we split into groups and each group picked out three findings from the shoe box. Inspired by those three random findings, each group had 12 minutes to come up with a brand new service concept to reduce congestion on the sidewalks of downtown New Orleans. One group pulled Uber drivers blocking the sidewalk, galleries and balconies, and someone saying “oh hey there.”Although this tactic seems a bit quirky at first, it forced participants to think outside of the box and feel free to be creative.

Next, the groups also got a chance to practice customer journey mapping to document and present their service concepts. A customer journey map states the actions a customer takes before, during, and after the service period. The same group mentioned before used their findings to come up with a service concept named Rendezvous. The service provides discounts to museums and galleries based on the amount of sidewalk congestion in their area at a given time time of day. The service would help redirect traffic into areas that were less congested. The group was inspired by the surge concept from Uber. Galleries became the centerpiece of the service, and “oh hey there” translated into the alert for discounts. Other groups’ service concepts featured drones that fly over town to give insight on the best routes to take, and textured sidewalk mats that let walkers know when something is happening ahead.

We were thrilled by the amount of engagement and enthusiasm participants had from the beginning to the end of the workshop. Everyone truly dove head first into the exercises, from mastering the act of walking and writing during the service safari portion, to stretching their minds to unusual lengths during lateral thinking. All of Smashing Boxes’ workshops are approachable, fun, and comprehensive.

This service design workshop was an awesome experience for everyone involved and it is even more exciting to see service design at work with real organizational issues. Fundamentally, service design takes a holistic approach by placing equal value on internal business processes and the actual moments that make up the customer experience. Service designers can consult with new organizations to plan innovative service models and with existing organizations to help them orchestrate points of contact with their customers in an effective and efficient way. If your business is facing a challenge that you think service design might solve, please contact Smashing Boxes to schedule a workshop, here. We’d be glad to share our thoughts.

Watch the video highlights of our New Orleans Service Safari:

New Orleans Service Design Safari from Smashing Boxes on Vimeo.

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