Marc Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider have put together a nifty tool called the Customer Journey Canvas [PDF 220K] as part of their upcoming book on service design thinking. Their A3-sized design is nicely done and inspired by the canvases in the must read Business Model Generation book.

This tool supports the audit of existing services and covers not only the period of time associated with the encounter but also the pre-service and post-service phases of the journey. Customer journey maps are typically focused on the front stage encounter from the customer’s point-of-view but as an audit it’d be great to see a complementary version demonstrating the connections with the back stage supporting processes.

They’ve released the customer journey canvas under a creative commons license so I’ve taken the liberty of slightly reformatting it for US printers using tabloid paper.

The Center for Hospitality Research at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration has an interesting paper on service scripting [PDF 700k] from 2008.

A service script, as defined in this study, is a detailed guide for front-line employees to follow during a service encounter. A script includes a predetermined set of specific words, phrases, and gestures, as well as other expectations for the employee to use during each step of the service process.

The study is less about the design of scripts and more about how guests react to scripted encounters in a hotel setting as opposed to more extemporaneous approaches. There are also some citations on script theory to follow up.

Tip: Choose File > Print in Google docs to save the PDF.

[via Michael Dixon]

The last time I flew anywhere the flight was 35 minutes late before it had even taken off because the airplane was nowhere to be found. Not a great beginning to a five-hour flight.

Once we were airborne the pilot came on over the intercom and apologized for our late departure and sympathized with the folks who had connecting flights. I was worried about missing my connection but he said he was going to deviate from our flight plan and something about the jet stream and tailwinds and permission from the airline to run the engines a little faster than normal. The long and the short of it was that he was going to do his best to get us there on time. When we touched down he was as good as his word. I was impressed.

Fantastic service recovery isn’t an accident. Mistakes are an inevitable part of service delivery but the best services are systematically designed to recover with grace. In fact a memorable recovery can build even more goodwill than an encounter that goes according to plan.

Next week Fabian Segelström and I will be running a workshop on service recovery at the SDN conference in Berlin. It’s in the first block of workshops on Thursday. We’re going to go through the basics of service recovery and demonstrate a tool we’ve been working on for designing effective solutions.

This topic is interesting to me because it starts to dig into the “managing as designing” side of service design. We’re going to be looking at service recovery from three different perspectives. Not only the front-stage customer service perspective but also back-stage operations and HR perspectives. We’re drawing from the service management literature on recovery and Fabian has written an overview of the findings from that research.

If you’d like to take part in the workshop then we have a request. Be on the lookout for service failures as you travel to Berlin. Airports, hotels, restaurants and taxis — anywhere along your journey. We’ll have plenty of examples of our own but we’d like to include your perspective in the workshop by deconstructing the first-hand problems you each encounter.

Hopefully your trip to Berlin will be flawless. But if you see someone go above and beyond the call of duty to fix a problem we definitely want to hear about it.

Nick Remis and Izac Ross are enrolled in the BFA service design program at the Savannah College of Art and Design. As part of a team of eleven undergraduate students they collaborated on a 10-week service design project for the Woodville community garden in Savannah, Georgia.

I interviewed Nick and Izac about their work by telephone earlier this summer on June 8th, 2010.

Read Interview

I’ve been sprucing up the blogroll here at Design for Service. Over time Twitter has undercut a few of the blogs I used to follow and others have cropped up in their place. But I’ve also started looking further afield. Here are a handful of service operations blogs that are worth adding to your RSS feeds.

Some of the operations research blogs can be a little impenetrable (there are quite a few out there) but the operations management blogs seem to complement service design pretty well. They’re another facet to the same general subject.

I missed this when it was released back in March but the Open Book of Social Innovation [PDF 5.5MB] finally came across my radar while I was researching my previous post. It’s the result of a two-year collaboration between the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) and The Young Foundation to develop a body of knowledge on social innovation. This report is part of a series on the topic.

The 224-page PDF describes over five hundred methods and tools for innovation being used across the world. As a grammar of social innovation there’s a lot to digest; I only got about halfway through before my brain shut down for the day.

Here’s an overview of the first section showing the contents and the number of methods (in parentheses) for each topic. Sections two and three are after the jump.

Prompts, Inspirations and Diagnoses

  • Triggers and inspirations (6)
  • Recognizing problems (27)
  • From symptom to cause (3)

Proposals and Ideas

  • Imagining solutions (10)
  • Thinking differently (5)
  • Open innovation (7)
  • Participation (11)
  • Facilitating participation (8)
  • Institutions (3)

Prototypes and Pilots

  • Prototypes, pilots and trials (10)
  • Finance for emerging ideas (14)


  • Creating a business (5)
  • Ownership and organizational form (9)
  • Governance (7)
  • Organization and management models (5)
  • Operations (4)
  • Relational capital (10)
  • Venture finance (7)
  • Sustaining innovations / public sector (4)

Scaling and Diffusion

  • Inspiration (2)
  • Diffusing demand (6)
  • Scaling and diffusion / public sector (6)
  • Commissioning and procurement (14)
  • Suppliers of innovation (7)
  • Transmitters (9)
  • Organization and scale (8)
  • Metrics to show what works (22)

Systemic Change

  • Ideas that energise systemic innovations (13)
  • Infra- and Interstructures to support new systems (5)
  • Formation of users and producers (4)
  • Strategic moves that accelerate systems change (6)
  • Regulatory and fiscal changes (9)
  • Information, accounting and statistics (3)
  • Progressive coalitions and social movements (3)
  • Systemic finance (3)

After a bit of digging I’ve been able to uncover some more about Geoff Mulgan’s critique of social design.

The most direct reference is a fantastic set of visual notes from Jonathan Hey who attended Mulgan’s talk at the DMI conference in London earlier this month.

But for the details of the argument I’m extrapolating from a working paper Mulgan wrote for the Social Innovation Exchange conference in December 2009. This is a third hand translation of a French summary of that paper (or discussion about it at the conference) so caveat emptor. But it looks like he’s indeed critiquing RED and Participle as well as Thinkpublic, IDEO, the Rockefeller Foundation, and an organization that’s new to me called EMUDE focused on sustainability.

According to the summary of Mulgan’s argument the key strengths that designers bring to social design projects include new perspective and clarity, tools for systematic thinking and catalyzing behavior as well as visualization techniques and methods for rapid prototyping. Key weaknesses include high cost, lack of investment, a tendency to reinvent the wheel, mediocre skills at implementation, lack of economic understanding or organizational perspective and lack of rigor.

The visual notes from the DMI conference confirm this by listing three strengths: insight, prototypes and imagination; as well as five weaknesses: revising research, economics, understanding [political] power, delivery, expensive.

Mulgan presented a case study from the Young Foundation called Studio Schools [PDF pg5], but there aren’t any details about projects from the agencies mentioned above so it’s still unclear where or how the weaknesses manifest, if at all. Or why these efforts have been judged a failure.

Kevin McCullagh’s piece at core77 last week on T-Shaped Designers is worth exploring. It hinges around Geoff Mulgan’s critique* of social designers at a recent DMI conference. McCullagh emphasizes the need for designers to strengthen their vertical competencies in particular domains by focusing on deeper knowledge, craft skills and methods. His article is essentially a call for increased specialization.

I don’t know if I buy his wholesale dismissal of design generalists but his critique of the T-shape reminded me of Nick Marsh’s 2007 presentation where he introduced the idea of “bridge-shaped” design teams with multiple verticals [p74]. Service design leverages the deep verticals of the client organization itself through a co-design approach.

The core77 piece sparked a nice response over at Design Dialogues by Peter Jones. He considers the Optimal Geometry of Social Design and comes to an interesting conclusion:

So allow me to suggest the geometry of a wheel to replace the T-shape. A wheel with spokes — deep rounded Ts surrounding a hub in the center. The hub is the shared concern of the situation. Each member, joined at left and right around the wheel’s edge, represents one stakeholder in a collective social system. If you remove one member, you no longer have a wheel. If you remove the hub, the center or focus, you no longer have traction.

The wheel is essentially Nick’s bridge model, but wrapped around a common hub; a common focus. I like the implications for service design teams.

Note:* I haven’t read the substance of Mulgan’s critique of social design agencies and though McCullagh doesn’t seem inclined to share any examples I can only imagine they’re talking about RED, or maybe Participle. I’d be interested in hearing from other attendees about the validity of this critique.

Update: I dug up some fantastic visual notes on the DMI conference from Jonathan Hey. Mulgan’s talk is on the first spread, upper right quadrant.

Tuomo Kuosa explores the lack of celebrity culture in service design from the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. I’ve noted this cultural phenomenon in the past but his post delves into some reasons why “celebrities and stars have no place in service design.”

He quotes Reima Rönnholm who observes that good services are essentially invisible but I’d also suggest that the strong focus on collaborative teamwork and co-design tends to downplay the authorship of any single designer.

Next month the Service Design Network will be hosting a one-day conference at Microsoft’s New England Research Campus in Cambridge, Massachusett. The roster of speakers includes representatives from every service design organization in the US outside of academia. Also Oliver King from the UK.

They’ve extended early-bird registration until Friday. $410 for non-members and only $80 for students.

Here’s the lineup [jpg 948k] for October 29th.

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