Paul and Anna-Louisa on Making In-house Service Design the New Standard

Paul Mutsaers and Anna-Louisa Peeters shared seven learnings from their efforts to make Rabobank a more customer centric organization.

They kicked off their presentation with a metaphor that many people in the audience recognized; a tugboat towing a huge tanker. Their task was to get Rabobank moving in the right direction. To do that they focused on building their own internal service design capacity rather than simply acquiring one as in the case of Capital One. They ultimately built a team of roughly two dozen designers.

A common theme across many presenters today has been to deny that their experience is universal to the wider audience or that they have the exclusive word on how best to do service design. Paul and Anna-Louisa stressed that they don’t have a magic recipe; there’s no manual for how to make service design work in house. It’s just a lot of challenging hard work.

Their seven key points:

  1. Pair a service design with a customer journey manager. Many people within the organization think they already know what customers need. Countering those objections is a major obstacle and depends on having some organizational credibility on the team. Service design processes need explaining and stakeholder management is key to success.
  2. Make sure service design is at the core of your business. They moved from being aligned with IT in more of a tactical role to creating their own customer experience group focused on influence at the strategic level. That gave them bargaining power by putting them in touch with key stakeholders at the requirements gathering phase rather than simply executing on pre-existing plans.
  3. Connect with existing ways of working. In the past agencies had done service design for them. They needed to do it on their own to maintain consistency and build ownership of the results. This helped with acceptance of ideas and alignment with others. They developed an extensive internal guidebook PDF. Essentially a step-by-step guide for service design at Rabobank. Tips, tricks and tools to run a successful service design projects within the organization
  4. Set up a balanced team. Who you include on the team is important. Different perspectives; the right energy; future buy-in. Different perspectives make it more fun and more effective. Including stakeholders who can build a sense of ownership over the process helps to build support going forward.
  5. Show your work. Being visible within the organization is important. Many of the artifacts are tools for evangelization. Demonstrate worth; visualizing what we do. Get a stronger position within the organization. It helps to brand their contribution.
  6. Be the customer’s advocate. Set up a qualitative research lab in Utrecht. Validate assumptions; discover new opportunities; stay on the right track. Demand budget for research at the beginning of the project. Stress the risks of skipping it.
  7. Stay inspired. It can be challenging to stay current with design trends. Stay inspired by going to conferences, reading books and blogs.

For each point they emphasized both a “why” and a “how,” something I appreciated since many presenters focused heavily on either the tactical or strategic elements of their approach but rarely on both.

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