Service Design Blog

From Insight to Implementation

Posts written by Andy Polaine , Ben Reason & Lavrans Løvlie

  • Lying and Insurance

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    I’ve just written a post over on my Playpen blog about insurance and lying. The two seem to me to be tightly linked together. Many people have, at some point, either outright lied about or at least embellished an insurance claim. But I argue that insurance companies are just as bad the other way around, hiding behind complex calculations that they take no care to explain and, of course, the dreaded small print.

    Why does this matter to service design? It matters because it’s about trust. When you’re not buying a product that you can hold in your hand, can’t point to the broken parts. It’s the classic pig in a poke problem. What’s worse, it’s not just that the thing in the sack you are buying might not be a pig but a puppy, but the contents of the bag can magically change without you knowing about it. From artificially low lending interest rates that suddenly balloon (and we know where that got the finance sector) to insurance premiums that jump up year by year without explanation of why or informing customers that there are new tariffs available, practices that erode trust are an enormous problem for all industries.

    We are sold cheese that isn’t cheese, sold horrifically tortured animal products as if they were healthy and responsible, and ripped off all the time by insurance companies, telcos and banks. The problem with those latter service industries is that they’re like the factory slaughterhouses of the former – there’s no way to see the workings inside the box.

    But transparency has long-term value. When I caught my insurance company trying to get away with charging me too much they offered the cheaper, new tariff. They did the right thing, but now I despise them. In the end, like factory farming, its and unsustainable way to run a business.

    I’d be happy to hear of more examples of this in the service sector – most people have had some kind of similar experience. Please get in touch if you do or comment below.

    How much UX in the Service Design book?

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    We’re in the midst of refining the “Experiences” chapter of the Service Design book right now and we have some questions for our potential readers. As we are being published by Rosenfeld Media can we assume that you all have a pretty good knowledge of User Experience design? If we are making comparisons and distinctions or if we are covering some methods used in SD that are common to UX, how much should we explain them? We don’t want to teach anyone’s grandmothers to suck eggs, or even to do UX. Or we can just point to the UX Zeitgeist.

    If you are someone involved in UX, IxD, IA or another trendy acronym, what would you like to see in this section?

    Service Design: Raising More Questions Than Answers?

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    Megan Grocki has written piece over at UX Magazine called Service Design: Setting The Stage For The Consummate Experience. She starts with running through some of the key influences from marketing, which is part of her background, and runs through a general overview of service design.

    It’s definitely worth a read if this is new to you, but for us the element of people is what is critical. The key is hidden in one sentence in Megan’s piece: “It means that every one of a company’s employees understands that customer care is an integral part of the job”. Service design is designing with people and not just for them and it’s in that subtle distinction that service design differs, often, from UX, CX, marketing and IxD. With public services, in particular, there may be no “customer” as such, or we might not be designing for them. Healthcare is a situation in which we might be have a project working with nurses, for example. What are they – customers or service providers? The answer is both. They provide services to patients and doctors, but they also use services within the hospital. In most other ways of dealing with user/human-centred design, regardless of discipline, designers are either on one side of the fence or the other. Service design tries to take in the whole ecosystem.

    The main reason from blogging this here, though, is because of the comments to Megan’s piece. Margot Bloomstein and John W Lewis (whose comment turned into a blog post) both raised eyebrows at the possibility of service design doing everything it claims to do. There is obviously a need to clear up some skepticism and that’s part of the goal of our book. Service design does deal with a holistic approach to uncovering complex relationships and working to design a coherent whole. This process is pretty hard to describe in a single blog post, hence the book. It’s also easier to understand when you have a case study in to look at rather than in the abstract. We find most people get their “Aha!” moment at this point.

    So, our question to you is, “What are your questions?” We know there is skepticism about the breadth and depth of service design, but we also know we have worked on projects that cover this breadth and depth (one of which will be in the book). As a professional from UX, IA, IxD, CX or marketing (or others?), what do you feel you need us to explain or prove the case of?

    Why UX Professionals Should Care About Service Design

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    Laura Keller has begun a blog about Service Design for UX folks on UX matters. Great to see as live|work has it’s roots in UX when we just called it web design.

    In her post Laura says that the promise of holistic end-to-end UX “Sounds great, but this chatter and discourse belies a truth that we often don’t want to admit: we rarely ever get to do it.” This chimes with our experience and the approach we are taking to with this book. Service Design is as much a positioning for designers as it is a new discipline. What I mean is that it has given us a new story that has enabled us to get some of that holistic end-to-end work that was our ambition when we started. We hoped to break out of the downstream work we had been doing but didn’t know if we would get to do the stuff we dreamt of. Service Design positions design as able to deal with the thing that the business sells to customers – the service – rather than a component of that thing. We don’t always get that pure position and we still love designing the detail and get annoyed when the web job goes to someone else but when you get to rethink a business process or conceive of a brand new proposition it is worth the effort.

    Service Design loves UX

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    Now this book needs writing – and with Rosenfeld – who have such a strong heritage with User Experience Design I have been nosing around bits of the web where UX folks hang out and looking at their discussions of Service Design. 

    There are a few heated debates about the difference of lack of it (especially in the USA) which I am less keen to get into as that is, to me, fighting between siblings. However, there are also many comments from interested UX people who are not clear what Service Design is. I realise it can be hard to explain and have to deal with that when selling our services at live|work. What I would like to know is where the gaps are for UX people – what is it you would like to find out. How much of an intro to SD should we include in the book? Thx – Ben

    Welcome to Service Design

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    We (Andy Polaine, Ben Reason and Lavrans Løvlie) are excited to be writing a book on Service Design for Rosenfeld Media – welcome to the book’s working site. Service Design is a discipline that has now been ten years in the making and is becoming more and more relevant to a wide range of businesses and organisations. We are now confident that Service Design if effective and is here to stay. So, it’s a good time for a book.

    We aim to create the book that moves the understanding of Service Design on from a rather scattered, if lively, debate towards a clear marker that helps people understand what it is and, more importantly, how to do it and what impact it can have.

    We want it to be practical rather than an academic textbook. We know through running Service Design projects and trying to teach Service Design to students that it can be complex—services themselves are complex which is why so many services are awful. We believe Service Design brings clarity to that complexity and want to bring clarity to the book. We think the best way to describe service design and service thinking is in the context of whole projects, so the book we have planned will connect the methods to case studies based on live|work’s long experience in the area. It’s the book we wish we already had, so we decided to write it ourselves.

    This is the working site for the book and we’ll post thoughts, questions, updates and news about events as we go and continue once the book is finished and published (but there’s a lot of writing to do between now and then!). Naturally, we have the book fairly well planned out, but if you have any ideas, insights, methods or case studies that you think we should hear about, or any other thoughts about what should go into the book, let us know.