This guide is intended to give an overview of how you can use service design as a tool to win the hearts and minds of your customers by providing memorable experiences.
Everyone loves a great experience. Whether going to the grocer’s, or shopping on-line, people always appreciate when things are easy and make sense. This makes them happy, and happy customers are worth more to every business.
Companies are under increasing pressure to provide personalised, customer-focused services. We live in a world where products and services are getting more and more commoditised, and companies are struggling to compete solely on price. In order to stand out from competitors, companies need to recognise themselves as service providers and strive to make what they do more useful, usable and desirable for their users.
Put simply, businesses can use design holistically to identify where, when and how a service can be improved and made more valuable to those who provide and receive it.
What is service design
Products and services differ in a number of ways. The main implication of those differences is that services, as opposed to products, rely on the interactions between the users and providers of the service.
The design of services must include an analysis of all the points of contact between the user and the service provider. These are usually called ‘touch points’, and include the brand, customer-facing staff, environments, sales and communications materials and channels.
For this reason, design for service is a very practical approach to implementing a wider, design-led business strategy. Small businesses can use design as a creative and accessible form of business planning to align their strategy, brand and communications around propositions that enhance customers’ experiences.
You are into services
Today 89% of SMEs in Europe operate in some form of service industry. Twenty million people in the UK work in service organisations. The service economy now accounts for 72% of the UK’s gross domestic product (1). The importance of services to the economy will continue to grow, especially in industrialised countries where services account for the majority of GDP. For example, services comprise 80% and 71% of the GDP (2) of the USA and France, respectively.
In this new economy, the added value created by services is far greater than that of products. As a simple example, when coffee beans are sold as an unprocessed commodity they have little value unless sold in bulk. If those beans are roasted and packaged the added value, potential price and opportunity for differentiation is much greater. Several steps beyond this would be to offer a freshly brewed cup of coffee, at which point the opportunities to add value through service become even greater. Companies such as Starbucks take this even further by employing experienced baristas to serve a wide range of drinks (but still focused on coffee) in a comfortable environment. They are no longer simply offering a cup of coffee, but a consistent experience to be shared with friends that will encourage customer loyalty, allow differentiation from the competition and increase profit.
We are in the service industry
The inclusion of good customer service is becoming a key differentiator for any type of company, be it product or service based. In this new economy it is the whole experience, before, during or after the sale that really counts.
Customers are willing to pay a premium for products and services that help make their lives easier, more enjoyable and exciting.
In the service century, even big product brands like Apple and IBM are developing services for their customers, realising that their products act as gateways or enablers of these services. The classic example is Apple and the integration between the iPod and iTunes. IBM is also no longer positioning itself as a hardware manufacturer, but rather as a service provider by offering full IT solutions for its clients.
Because every organisation, like it or not, is a service provider, staff need to realise that they are service providers too. For example, the telecoms engineer who goes up the mast to make sure that everything is working properly has an enormous influence on the service experience that customers have. Or a courier, whose manners and behaviour have a significant impact on customer’s experience.
Read more at the paperEngine group's design for service