Archive for April, 2009
I’m a little surprised to see Design for Service listed on a Top 10 UX Blog roundup. I appreciate the shout-out and I follow many of the blogs on that list myself but I want to be clear:
This isn’t a UX blog.
I’m sorry if that seems less than gracious. Many aspects of the design of services seem closely aligned with Don Norman’s original conception of the term “user experience” in the mid-nineties but since then UX has metastasized and become largely conflated with the digital domain. Interaction design is limited by a similar set of perceptions.
Service design has been around much longer than either of these practices but it’s only now coming into the mainstream. This is a critical moment. Service design needs to keep UX at arm’s length to avoid suffering the same tragic fate.
That’s why I don’t write about Flickr or Facebook or any of the myriad digital services that exist out there.
I value UX Design and when I’m not wearing my service design hat you’ll frequently find me working in that context. Digital products certainly need our attention.
But that’s not what this blog is about.
A while back I examined a few of the parallels between screenwriting and service design. I’m continuing that exploration today by looking at a couple tools of the screenwriting trade: the beat sheet and the step outline.
A “beat” is a the smallest unit of story telling. Each beat describes a particular development. Something like: “Jeff heads down the back staircase into the garage to find his bicycle missing. He rushes outside to confront a teenager loading the bicycle into a waiting truck. A chase ensues.”
Taken together, all the beats in a story form a beat sheet. It’s a way to get a sense of the overall structure and cadence without having to wade through the entire script. A beat sheet allows a writer to experiment with rearranging the narrative. Here’s an example of a template beat sheet [Doc 40k].
A step outline is a little more detailed. It breaks each of the beats into individual scenes as in this sample outline [PDF 112k].
From a service design perspective, you might think of the customer journey as unfolding like the narrative in a screenplay. Each service encounter is a beat; each moment of truth is an individual step in the arc of the story. Why not take a look at the overall sequence in the form of a beat sheet or a step outline to see how the design holds together?
Marc from 31Volts has another nice article on service design, this time examining the off-stage experience:
Companies should realize that it’s not only how well they deliver their service and how efficient their delivery process is, it’s just as important how their customers experience the time in-between touchpoints.
He takes the familiar front-stage/back-stage dichotomy and expands it to see what else is going on during the service encounter when you’re not dealing directly with front line staff. The theatrical equivalent of waiting in the wings.
One of his takeaways late in the article stands out: “An outstanding off-stage experience might actually become one of your selling points. If people start coming to your place for that experience you should reconsider the business you’re in.”
This is an important distinction. What Marc is describing is precisely the boundary between a service and an experience in the Pine and Gilmore sense. It also hints at how services function as the building blocks for experiences.
Paul Robare is a second year Master’s candidate at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Design. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester and Design Continuum in Boston co-sponsored a service design course at CMU where students worked on a project called the Advanced Medical Home.
I interviewed Paul by telephone earlier this year about the design of his team’s LiveWell service.
Bob Cooper’s post about Washington Mutual introduced me to the now-defunct Occasio banking concept:
Gone are the tellers of the traditional banks and their windows. In their place are khaki-clad “concierges” who direct people to where they need to go according to what the customers need. They may be directed to one of the “teller towers,” circular help desks where they can conduct their own business or talk to an employee.
This immediately reminded me of Paco Underhill’s thoughts on hotel design in Why We Buy. I was surprised to read that Washington Mutual applied for a patent for the configuration. It’s good PR, but as this Seattle Times article makes clear, it would have been almost impossible to defend.
In any event, Cooper points out that JPMorgan Chase, the new owner of Washington Mutual is discontinuing the Occasio design. He insinuates that this is a referendum on the appropriateness of the design; that it was somehow a failure.
I don’t see any evidence of that. They might not call what they did “service design” but from what I can tell the design had been well-received. It’s more likely that the concept simply didn’t fit with Chase’s more traditional brand.
For more on this topic, The Harvard Business Review ran an article about six years ago on banking retail design. Check out R&D Comes to Services for an overview.
Update: Adaptive Path has some additional thoughts on Chase’s move to replace the Occasio concept.
The online journal Re-public has issued a call for papers for an upcoming special issue on service design entitled Innovative Service Design for All. The journal focuses on innovative developments in contemporary political theory and practice. Here’s their take on the discipline.
Service design lies in the centre of attention in contemporary, increasingly service-oriented knowledge economies. In such contexts, user experience is paramount, including both the interfaces and interactions that customers use to contact the service provider, as well as the back-office activities performed by the service provider. Given the complexity of services in modern, multicultural, networked societies and the criticality of their environmental impact, service design becomes a major issue for the years to come.
The deadline for submissions is Saturday, June 6, 2009. Essays should be around 1500 words in length.
The Public Services by Design program of the UK Design Council is sponsoring a talk next Thursday exploring potential scenarios for the future of Britain and the role for designers in helping to shape how the government delivers public service. They’d love to get more service designers to attend.
Dr Alex King, project leader at the government’s Horizon Scanning Centre, will be presenting Economy and Society 2030 in London on Thursday, April 23rd at 6:00pm. It’s a free event but prior registration is required.
Diego Rodriguez is building a collection of 21 principles on his metacool weblog. He hasn’t posted much context for why he’s doing this or what the principles are about, but his first five are focused on design and prototying.
The fifth principle on prototyping is especially resonate for the design of services and experiences.
- Experience the world instead of talking about experiencing the world
- See and hear with the mind of a child
- Always ask: “How do we want people to feel after they experience this?”
- Prototype as if you are right. Listen as if you are wrong.
- Anything can be prototyped. You can prototype with anything.
There are some nice anecdotes from inside and outside the world of design mixed with each principle. Worth keeping an eye on as the other sixteen principles emerge.