Service implementation is a hot topic in service design at the moment. The term ‘implementation’ comes with a number of connotations which shape the way we see services, service development and how service ideas become service practices. However, services do not always change in the way that this implementation view suggest.
This is the first of two posts based on my PhD thesis ‘How Service Ideas Are Implemented: Ways of Framing and Addressing Service Transformation’. In the posts I will talk about two ways in which services change can be seen as well as how design and trained designers can contribute to the realisation of changes in services. In this first post I discuss the implementation view of changing services.
Service implementation as building railway tracks
In the context of services, the term ‘implementation’ is often used when talking about realising an idea for a service. This view on service development is similar to, for instance, product development or software development: A product is first designed and then manufactured, software programmes are first designed and then implemented (i.e. the lines of code are written). Products and software are developed to work in a reliable and repeatable way: Every time you flick a light switch, you want the light to turn on; every time you press the ‘save’ button in a text editor, you want your computer to store a copy of your text.
For services, this view thus works well if the service aims to deliver a certain outcomein a repeatable and consistent way. For instance, a food delivery service that delivers your food within a reasonable amount of time and before it has turned cold. Since these services are supposed to work in a predictable way, it is often possible to map the process that people who interact with a service go through—the customer journey map. Implementation of such services consists of developing the infrastructure that is needed to support the delivery of the service. In a service blueprint, this infrastructure is often addressed below what is called the line of visibility; the elements of the service that are not visible to the customer. For the food delivery service, developing this infrastructure includes, among other things, hiring staff, building a website and having a system to manage incoming orders. The infrastructure becomes somewhat like a railway track that guides the service process through a number of stations—the touchpoints of the service.
Service design as developing desirable service experiences
In the implementation-view on changing services, design is often seen as a phase in the development process, similar to what design is in product and software development. Service implementation takes place after a service is designed and tested. Using a service design approach during the design phase helps to determine what would be desirable service experiences from the perspective of the users of the service. Once the intended experiences are known, service prototypes help to explore and evaluate how to deliver those service experiences in a repeatable and consistent way, which can then be scaled up.
Trained service designers are often only involved during the design phase and their work usually ends when they hand over the service design to those who will work on implementing the service. Implementing the outcomes of this service design process has proven to not always be smooth sailing, in part due to the way designers currently work in service design projects. However, during their involvement in the design phase, designers can apply certain strategies which help increase the odds of successful service implementation later on. Such strategies include, for instance, involving the client organisation in service development process. Working with stakeholders in the organisation makes it possible to better assess the feasibility and viability of service ideas. Furthermore, it can help to develop both ownership over service ideas in the organisation and a readiness for implementing the outcomes of service design projects. Ideally, when the project ends those who are responsible for implementing the service will already have a general idea of how to develop the infrastructure that is needed to deliver the service.
These assumptions of the implementation view on changing services are fitting for services that aim to deliver a certain experience in a reliable way. However, there are many services where consistently providing a certain service experience is not possible or desirable. Education, healthcare and social services are examples of such services that need to be adapted to the specifics of a situation in order to be valuable. In the second post I will talk about how we can look at efforts to change this type of services that are more collaborations than journeys. I will also make suggestions for how design and trained designers can contribute to changing these collaboration-type services.FULLTEXT01