Is going “Digital” always the best way out to our problems?

Challenging the digital-panacea belief

Jagriti Kumar


Challenging the digital-panacea belief

I have a background in User Experience Design, and I came across service design while I was going through the rigmarole of corporate world. My previous experience of work had a user-centric approach to design and problem solving, but solutions were always digital in nature, irrespective of the nature of the problem. I was fine with that until, I faced a situation where an efficient solution was to re-design a tangible information source, rather than making a change to the website.

The idea of restraining our solutions only to one channel e.g. the digital channel made me questions the approach, intention, and vision. A lot of times, the problems were occurring at a different point of service interactions and channels than digital. I needed to see the system holistically, to further understand the problem at each point and its impact on the overall service.

Digital Technology

With the advent of digital technology, there are myriad ways of interacting with services and creating value; it has remodelled the way services are co-created by the customers and the provider.

It is present in every aspect of the service provision and has enabled all the stakeholders to access and exchange services dynamically irrespective of time and place.

Today organisations are busy introducing new channels for customers to co-create value. And, customers are busy discovering the comfort of additional channels like the smartphone, PC, smart devices, etc. While there are many benefits of having digital technology, it has also enabled the rise of new complexities.

Standardisation of interactions

The addition of new channels has led to the growth of multi-channel service systems. How customers interacts with channels? To access the services; now customers have the possibility of complementing or substituting these channels as per their need and context. For example, taking a loan from a bank, a customer can combine two channels like reading about it online and calling the customer service or substitute all other channels by communicating in-person with a bank officer.

If we observe, these complex service systems, have standardised and routinised our interactions by taking advantage of technology. Have you ever noticed that when you eat at McDonald’s, the food experience, and staff interactions is same irrespective of the city you are in? It, in turn, shapes our habits and perceptions. Eventually, every visiting customer repeats the same interaction and the staff as well, leaving less scope for an innovative experience.

Let’s ruminate

The growth of digital technology in services will shape face-to-face interaction and in turn, will also shape the service experiences offered. These days, my head revolves around these puzzles, whenever I reflect about the essence of innovation in services.

What are the implications of moving away from the face-to-face interaction in a service encounter? Also, it is important to understand, if a digital interaction has the same influence on the outcomes as a face-to-face interaction?

How will replacing a face-to-face interaction affect the innovation cycle of the multi-channel services? If replacing, in which service context it should be replaced?

Are there situations where — although technology may be readily available for implementation, should a service be kept as a face-to-face interaction? Are there situations where, although face-to-face interaction is traditionally applied, should service be better provided through a digital channel? And, also, considering all blends in between.

Looking forward

To explore the possibilities of design interventions that can bring more understanding in the space of digital technology and face-to-face interaction in services.

I’ll be sharing more on this topic in coming weeks. And, if this is something that you can relate to, let me know by leaving your responses below.