Service design: why should marketers care?

Bronwyn van der Merwe, Australian Fjord Lead, part of Accenture Interactive, writes about the factors that distinguish disciplined ‘service design’ from what marketers are used to.

 

Complex consumer expectations

bronwyn accenture headshot bw 180It’s no secret that marketers in the current digital climate face increasing pressure to deliver relevant, personalised and engaging experiences to consumers. The difficulties include the general proliferation of channels and the speed at which customer touch-points are evolving. New platforms and devices continue to change the playing field. In addition, today more than ever, people are in control. In a world where everything is shared on social media, where brands and services are reviewed, rated and challenged if they do not deliver on their promise, organisations no longer have the same level of control.

Article theme badge DesignAs a result, the Mad Men-esque times of simply promoting products and services to create customer engagement and loyalty are long gone, with marketers needing to now consider ways to create and maintain value among audiences far beyond the limits of what’s being sold.

Service design tackles this directly. But what exactly is service design? Service design is the way to strategically address the complexity of today’s multi-touch-point and transmedia experiences.

It’s a process whereby designers look holistically at a service experience and map out all aspects of it, looking for points at which the service fails or delivers a sub-optimal experience as well as opportunities to inject delight or surprise.

We do this by conducting different types of people- centered research to see the experience through everyone’s eyes and then abstract the findings into a model to make it tangible for everyone. We also step back, and look at the whole ecosystem, seeking to understand the 5 Ps: people, products, processes, performance and the places where services are experienced.

Critical to the process is a deep understanding of the people involved: who they are, but also how, where and when they interact with a brand, and how this experience changes over time and across channels. Service designers seek to understand the customer life-cycle and customer journeys across the entire ecosystem that includes the five Ps.

Taking this rich insight, service designers collaborate with stakeholders, facilitating workshops and using various methodologies to drive break-through thinking that addresses the issues or opportunities identified in the research. Together we identify patterns and make connections across seemingly disparate information, generating new and innovative ways to meet the needs and expectations of customers.

Finally, we demonstrate our thinking by doing and making, piloting and prototyping new businesses, services and experiences and iterating them based on feedback. It’s a process that helps brands transform from being commodities to indispensable utilities in a consumer’s life.

This is where the common ground begins to emerge with marketing; many brands are now finding themselves faced with the challenge of having to deliver additional value through compelling customer experiences.

Service designers use the unrestricted, creative elements of design and apply them in structured ways. It’s a research-led, collaborative approach that helps organisations to understand and assess their current ecosystems, identify pain-points and opportunities, and generate new and innovative ways to meet the needs and expectations of their customers.

In line with the complexities of modern marketing, where the mantra is to surprise and delight, service design facilitates the discovery and development of brand loyalty and ensures meaningful value is consistently delivered at key stages of the customer journey.

 

Data-driven design

Driven by the digital transformation of everything, all aspects of life are changing: working, learning, living and playing. We’re seeing major disruption from the likes of Uber and Airbnb. Uber is now using its platform to provide flu shots to people in their homes and has just announced UberMovers, which puts people who want to move in touch with drivers who want to help.

Apple’s EasyPay allows you to walk into a shop, select a product, pay and walk out – without ever speaking to an Apple store employee.

Given the ongoing trend of digital consumer touch- points being developed and used by both marketers and end users, the sheer volume of data being generated is huge, and so is the potential for using this.

 

It’s beginning to feel like magic

The data generated by – and for – consumers means that it is increasingly possible for marketers to develop granular insights across a wide variety of channels, platforms and touch-points. However, this is nothing particularly new, as data and analytics have been used to track the effectiveness of campaigns and initiatives for some time. The next level is to broaden the use of data to include a greater focus on contextualising a product or service, in order to achieve long-term customer engagement.

Consumers want what they want, when they want it and they’re happy to trust you with their data in return for surprising and delightful experiences.

Amazon’s anticipatory shipping aims to leverage your data and predictive analytics to work out what you may want next and will get it as close to you as possible. Effective use of data science and data mining make things seem more magical.

This creates a shift away from marketing insight and towards business intelligence, where translating data into a clear and immersive experience for both consumers and organisations is a priority. Service design can be key to this.

As service design continues to become the mediator between customer touch-points, data, technology and those affected by these, it will empower brands to effectively understand how to develop experiences for their customers in a way that benefits all parties. Given this is driven inherently by the need to provide value directly to consumers, it’s clear to see how marketing must push for service design within their organisations.

 

The perfect match

Understanding how to develop great customer experience and interaction with a brand is – and has been – the norm for marketers for quite some time. Service design, however, takes a much broader stance and analyses every touch-point, communication and interaction a brand has with customers across all products, systems and services.

Marketing is now about organisations recognising and nurturing personalised, individual relationships with customers and delivering value above expectation. The direction of travel for digital is clear – the goal we are all striving for is to create experiences that are genuinely personalised for each and every customer in real time – to deliver millions of unique and beautiful experiences, simultaneously. Service design combined with data and analytics can help organisations deliver on this goal.

There’s little doubt that service design overlaps with marketing and will continue to do so in the future. As the practice expands further into organisations, there will be increased focus on customer experience priorities at multiple levels, with collaborations across customer- facing departments, marketing, sales and beyond. Service design will become embedded in marketing, business, vision and strategy.

Ultimately, service design helps organisations figure out how to evolve and prosper in a complex digital world through multiple touch-points, focusing on how people interact with brands and their products and services, and how to craft a delightful and personalised service, ensuring customers are central to these processes.

 

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