On the weekend of the 2nd of November 2018, I had the opportunity to attend what the organizers called the last Service Experience Camp together with Vitor (one of our Product Designers) and Isabel (one of our Product Managers).
For those who don’t know, the Service Experience Camp is a yearly event that takes place in Berlin with the goal of connecting people from varied backgrounds beyond the mere exchange of business cards. Besides networking, all the attendees are interested in discussing the benefits of applying design methodologies to new and existing business, learning new frameworks and reflecting on how to implement all the knowledge when solving problems that users might be facing.
The event is considered a ‘co-conference’ in which the community helps to define ad-hoc which open sessions will take place based on attendee interest. What does that mean? It means that if you’re the kind of person who appreciates interactive sessions, workshops and networking, this is the place to be! On the other hand, the keynote talks are defined in advance, allowing you to better plan and know what to expect. So if you’re more the kind of person who appreciates sitting, listening and absorbing knowledge from experts in the field, this can also be the place to be! And if you like both approaches, then you’re in heaven!
As I mentioned before, the conference suits people with different personalities and interests. As I am the type of person who appreciates sitting and listening, I had the pleasure to hear speakers from companies like Finnair, Blinkist, Zalando and more, sharing how ‘Crafting Delight — Delivering Value’, the conference’s topic this year, impacts their areas of expertise. So, in this article I will try my best to share my main learnings and takeaways from the keynote talks that I found the most interesting.
1. The experience is the product
Maria Lumiaho, Design Director at Finnair, took us on a short (but really interesting) journey on how the Finnish airline became an award-winning company that now benefits from decisions made a long time ago. Most importantly, she shared some challenges the Digital team faces and how they all work together towards one objective: delivering delightful experiences.
Team & challenges
If you’re like me, when you think about the digital world of airline companies, you most likely consider your own perspective, that of a customer buying a ticket, checking in and experiencing the service. But what we don’t realize is the amount of work done ‘behind the scenes’ to provide pilots, cabin crews and ground staff the proper tools to carry out their work. These are not only different ‘personas’ with different ‘jobs to be done’ — they might also be in completely different countries, with completely different cultures. This turns the entire prospect into a big and more complicated challenge. For this reason, Finnair created a ‘horizontal and vertical travel’ concept, with the Design team immersing itself in these issues.
- Horizontal travel: go to the market, check references, ask users, conduct interviews
- Vertical travel: put yourself in situations you haven’t experienced before. Get your hands on things you’ve never seen. Travel to understand how other cultures deal with things.
Throughout the years, the company has identified a few issues they needed to change internally in order to improve what they had and provide a delightful experience to the customer:
- Investing more and more in building their own API and microservices
- Improving the mobile booking experience, which is something that will also continue in the future
As in many other companies, everything isn’t always easy, especially working with different stakeholders:
- Balancing business requirements and user needs is an interesting but difficult problem
- Unfortunately, most of the time, user needs don’t even make it onto the development roadmap
In order to create customer delight, Finnair has to think of how to successfully reward users, not only during a successful journey, but especially when things go wrong — i.e. when things they can’t control happen. How does a user deal with the frustration of a cancelled or missed flight? Here one has to not only think about the digital experience, but also all the physical touch points.
- Foster curiosity: customers needs, wants and problems should be at the core of everything you do. Feedback is important!
- Apply persistence: embrace ambiguity, complexity and be ready to challenge. This also includes decades-old conventions and processes.
- Practice humility: customer insights not only come from designers, but also from all corners of the organisation. Do what you’re good at, but also listen to everyone.
- Be ready to transform: not just a new digital service, but even larger transformations
2. Believe in your intuition
Temi Adeniyi, Head of Design at Blinkist, talked a bit about how the company and product have changed since she joined the team a few years ago as the first (and only) designer. Most importantly, how the team has learned from their mistakes and how intuition can help give birth to new ideas.
Failing & learning
The Blinkist team used to be quite small. At that time, nearly half the team was involved in a project that ultimately proved to be unsuccessful. Why? It was based on a business request and the team simply jumped into working on solutions. In the end, it proved to be a big, unvalidated bet.
- Six months working on a project without checking with customers
- Readers didn’t want it
- But they learned a lot by doing it
Having learned from this experience, the team’s next project worked out quite well. Why? It started out with one designer’s intuition. And we know that intuition can be great, but is not infallible, so always (in)validate your hunches early by talking with real people. You need to gain:
- Qualitative feedback (competitive analysis, customer support, usability tests and surveys)
- Quantitative data (funnel analysis, analytics, card sorting, business intelligence)
Applying learnings to solve problems
As mentioned previously, ideas can develop out of intuition. Designers are particularly good at this, as it’s in their DNA for many reasons:
- Formal training
- Using other products and services
In Blinkist’s case, a hunch — that initial intuitive guess about how to solve a problem — inspired the development of a new feature. The perceived problem was turned into a hypothesis, i.e. a shareable and testable idea. A clear way to define such a hypothesis is to break it down into:
- Solution and outcome
After all, intuition is a muscle, so we should train it! Only you can strengthen it.
- Listen: pay attention to what your users have to say
- Reflect: bring other people into the room
- React: take time to reflect on what other opportunities are out there
And don’t forget, your solution is a hunch too! You will always need to validate it with your users, along with testing prototypes and ideas.
In a nutshell
- Solve problems that real people care about: also be the user, not just the designer
- Fail early, learn quickly: even failing will lead to benefits for you
- Strengthen intuition with data
3. Accessibility for all
Alistair Duggin, Head of Accessibility of the UK Government Digital Service, gave an insightful talk about the importance of accessibility in digital development. He touched on how this currently impacts not only people with special needs, but also how, no matter what, we will all be affected at some point in the future, especially in an ageing society. So far so good — but what does accessibility really mean?
- Ensuring something is used by the largest audience
- Everyone should have the right to access information
Principles & advice
There are four principles in the digital world:
- Perceive: if you are visually impaired, can you properly see the content?
- Understand: do you understand what’s written or what’s being said?
- Operate: are users able to use your content and interact with it?
- Robust: does your content work with the software users generally have (browser, platform, etc.)?
If one of these principles doesn’t work, the outcome might not be as good as expected. On top of these principles, Alistair also listed a few aspects that need attention when designing products:
- Text size and colour contrast: remove barriers for visually impaired people
- In transport services, the use of LEDs to indicate routes is nice, but audio can also be used. This not only helps blind and visually impaired people, but also those who happen to be reading or having conversations.
- To ensure that a website can be read out properly, it needs to be designed properly
- Designing your code to be read properly also makes it easier for voice assistants like Siri and Alexa to provide better results
- Make sure that provided information is as consistent and simple as possible
- Use a clear type and simple language
- Speech recognition applications help people with severe disabilities
- Apple, Microsoft and Google are some big names that currently understand the value of investing in accessibility
Microsoft has an interesting inclusive toolkit which can be used to practice new skills, develop new concepts and create prototypes exploring more accessible solutions.
For Alistair, crafting delight is about delivering value. If you have an accessible product / service, you will definitely reach a bigger audience.
By designing with accessibility in mind, we’re designing for our friends, family and future selves.
Conferences are always a good place to learn, share and network. It’s great how sometimes you have no expectations about a specific topic or talk — and then you’re surprised at how those can be the most inspiring ones. I feel like I might not have taken full advantage of the open sessions and their workshops, but the keynote talks were worth attending and insightful, giving us good examples of how we can apply concepts to our daily jobs and always strive to deliver value and delight our users. The Service Design Camp 2018 has ended and it may have been the last one (if what the organizers said is true), but there are definitely many other places to learn and gain inspiration.
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