Who needs service design?
Service design is a buzz word in business. While many individuals and teams have tried and understood the benefits of using design methodology in their work, service design has benefits in a wider scale as well.
Firstly, design is good for all organizations. Service design methods and prototyping tools can accelerate the speed of development and break organizational boundaries, thus creating value for end-users by better responding to their needs.
Secondly, the world’s wicked problems demand new solutions that would shift our consumption and societies towards more sustainable and equal direction.
Good design sells
Every company is a design company.
Some companies are just more competent than others. They are strategically aligned to realize the potential of design, usability and emotional appeal. Advanced design companies are better at observing weak signals, spotting trends and seizing the possibilities of disruption. They are better at designing products and services that customers really love. Companies and their employees should systematically develop their skills in design, as it yields long-term success.
The industrial world has traditionally relied on engineers and technological possibilities in innovation. Thus, innovation processes are too often product or company-centric and forget the user needs and context. A classic stereotype is the remote-control panel. How many buttons do you really use? And can the majority of the users, including also elderly and children, use it properly without a manual?
“A classic stereotype of forgetting user needs is the remote-control panel.”
The start-up culture has been a great promotor of service design that relies on the agile way to develop and iterate products together with the end-users. Through them, service design methodologies have started to spread to the big corporations as well, becoming even some sort of a hype. I believe that one day service design most likely becomes “the new normal” and valued set of skills in business.
Design is not one skill but an intelligent combination of many skills
Actually, service design is not a clearly defined single discipline. There are a huge number of skills that drive superior customer experience and innovation within organizations. Service designers have very different backgrounds and competencies. The user-centric “business skills” include disciplines like ethnography, social sciences, ideation, visualization and prototyping. The value is created by multidisciplinary working in teams instead of working in silos.
At Kuudes, our recipe for good design consists of three sets of tools: insight, holistic brand strategy and emotionally appealing design.
Empathy generates insight, a deep understanding of users’ intellectual, social, emotional and physical needs, and everyone in an organization should understand these two things: who are the customers that they are serving and what do they value? That also opens up new paths for product, service and software development as well as social innovations. Leaders should show example and come out of the boardrooms; talk and interact with their clients.
In terms of strategy, the leading organizations have clearly defined why they exist, and what kind of an impact they want to create. When the purpose and position of the organization, product or service is chosen, then it can be translated into recognizable and differentiating design and communicated more effectively to all relevant stakeholder groups.
If you want your organization to become an expert in customer experience, start building the competence today. It can take years — even a decade — before the organization has adapted the new ways of working, and the silos have been taken down.
We all need to change our behaviour for our world
On a bigger scale, service design also offers good tools that will help us change the consumer behaviour by making sustainable alternatives more attractive and usable. This means that the focus of service design can shift from mere hype to more visionary and meaningful work that promotes sustainable future.
Here are some examples of service design that we are doing at the moment in Kuudes:
How are we learning new skills throughout our entire life? How do we cooperate & communicate in teams? How do we tackle the issues of trust and understanding?
How do we eat healthier and more sustainably?
How do we design sustainable and safe urban areas and engaging learning and working environments?
How do we design services that help organizations and consumers consume less natural resources, cut the use of plastics and recycle more?
The Nordic countries have been pathfinders in utilizing service design. Californian design and business have dominated the world but European companies are closing the gap.
So, who needs service design? All organizations really. In the Nordic countries, design is truly for everyone, and the public sector is one of the biggest buyers of service design. However, we should continue to invest in service design skills and education, and research all businesses. Maybe in terms of design the Nordic countries can be the California 2.0: designing for quality of life and sustainable business.
This blog post is based on a talk a I gave at the Finnish premiere of the SDN’s Nordic Service Design Documentary.