Service Design Moments: The Making of a Successful Co-creation Event

At The Moment, we work with a wide spectrum of clients and project leaders on innovation and service design work. We have many modes of working with clients: embedding with client teams, learn-by-doing design programs, and acting as a joined up team. The joined up team mode creates a design team of client and Moment members who share ownership over the design work and outcomes; we collaborate on all aspects of the design process, drawing from the business knowledge of the client and our design chops. In this mode, we have our best success with those clients who are either experienced in the basics of service design, or they are interested, curious, and ready to apply some hard work to doing and learning. Right now I’m working with one of our best joined up teams yet. Collectively they have curiosity, some existing and developing design skill, and they are enabling this work at every turn. As a result, the project is yielding some great outcomes.

First, some context. The project was scoped as a 5 month engagement. It involved a wider cross functional stakeholder team and a core design team that worked collaboratively with The Moment through the stages of research and design. It took place within a large corporate environment in the finance sector, and was positioned to challenge ways of thinking and doing within the client group.

One of the best decisions we made as a joined-up team was to focus a significant amount of attention, time, and project resources to a customer co-creation event. At The Moment, we use co-creation as a service design method a lot, however clients aren’t always ready to take that on or set it up for success. In this case, we had everything we needed to have not only a successful event, but to reap significant rewards from it in the work to follow. Here were the specifics that made a difference to the success of this particular event:

  1. Doing in-depth design research first: In this case we prefaced the co-creation session with 144 customer research hours of interviews and group sessions. We were thorough in our exploration to help us define and refine our problem(s) to solve throughout the project. By doing this, we allowed co-creation materials to be well crafted and ready to be tested.
  2. Synthesizing research insights to build out a really effective co-creation kit: This included a designed card deck for building a product prototype and sales experience moments, and a customized client specific customer journey model. When doing a co-creation session we always have a spectrum of choices for how we want to engage with customers: from a blank page to a pre-designed model that customers can work with and test. We opted for an approach that was somewhere in the middle, and the research got us to that sweet-spot of pre-designed and open for creativity. It ended up being the secret-sauce of the event.
  3. Co-creating prototypes that could be tested that day: We used role-play as a way to test the delivery of a sales experience using the co-created product and experience models. It worked like a charm and was also a great way to share the work with senior executives.
  4. Giving customers free reign minimal feasibility constraints: they could design what they want and tell us why they wanted it. In discovering what they would build, we learned more about them and the options available, leading us well down the path of ideation.
  5. Including client team members who would deal with the post-co-creation implications of the final design: In doing so, they were more ready to understand why ideas will be brought forward. Having heard it from the customer themselves, they were more open to seeking possibilities and not shooting ideas down too early.
  6. Prepping the wider client team beforehand and bringing them along in the project: with regular meaningful updates in the months prior to this event, we set everyone up to participate actively and helpfully. As a result, we experienced no blocking or challenging participation. Everyone was curious and ready to roll up their sleeves. Never underestimate the importance of involvement when you need engagement later on.

The impact going forward:

  1. The wider client team had a hands-on experience working with customers to not only understand their perspective but build solutions together. This has had a positive impact on the feasibility assessment of some of the bolder ideas to emerge from this project. Part of the feasibility question (“can we do this?”) is assessing whether key stakeholders in the organization will get behind the required changes. In this case, having been present with customers when design ideas surfaced, the wider team was quite willing to imagine why it might be worth some effort to build something new.
  2. The core client team has more support to continue their service design work, especially since senior executives were invited to participate in the role-play testing. Sometimes gaining leadership support is the biggest hill to climb for internal service design teams. Now that multiple internal stakeholders have lived experience to support their understanding, the design team has less work to do to sell the value of good design work.
  3. Customers were changed by the experience — feeling like they had a voice in building a product and sales experience was meaningful. They also learned a lot about the subject matter; they reported that it changed the way in which they would purchase in the future, now that they were better informed.
  4. Customer facing employees were changed by the experience — feeling enlightened and excited about the follow-on design possibilities that would implicate their work. The key moment during the session was when one advisor noted “Wow. If I could engage with customers this way, I could call myself an advisor again. Right now I just feel like a salesperson”.
  5. We got the thoughtful and well-constructed prototypes we needed!

If you remember anything from this post, let it be this: co-creation as core service design work has the potential to be transformative if you set it up right. Customers, clients, and a skilled design team make for a powerful design event and meaningful project results. Given that this is a significant service design method it begs to be used at the right time, with rigorous prep, and with clear intention.