Thankfully the audience at this year’s UX London didn’t usher me offstage to shouts of ‘Heretic!’. Instead, and to much relief, the gathered UXers gave my presentation ‘So you want to be a Service Designer?’ a welcoming reception. Probably because Service Design is gaining more mainstream attention as organisations seek better ways to tie together customer experience together across teams.
So what does that mean for you if you’re in a UX role and thinking about getting into Service Design?
Rather than get too caught up in the technicalities, I wanted to share some simple, practical things I’ve learned from my own journey which I think you should know if you’re interested in Service Design, coming from a UX background. Be ready – it will significantly change the way you think about what you do and how you work with your clients, and although some skills transfer across (like being human-centred), some will require time and hard work to get under your belt.
The good news is that now is a great time to embrace a broader way of thinking. Combining what you know already with a Service Design mindset is the first step towards developing services that make sense, and work better with the way people live their increasingly complex and busy lives.
Thinking like a Service Designer
My presentation (which you can download here 7MB) contains three key mindset shifts:
Mindset shift #1
In UX a lot of the focus is on the solution. The thing you’re making. Service Design asks a different question – how might we create value for our customers and others in the broadest sense?
Mindset shift #2
A good experience isn’t the same as a good outcome. Your work can have more impact when you think more broadly than just the area you’re working in.
Mindset shift #3
Services are co-created. Rather than all the value being in a one-to-one interaction between user and a product, value is created by all parties involved in that moment.
Designing for outcomes
One of the examples I give is about pensions. At Nile we do a lot of work with financial services providers. Services that make it easy for you to invest are popping up left, right and centre, and yet people still aren’t on the right track for the long-term, filing the forest of yearly paperwork without a second thought – until it’s too late. The business focus remains on the short term goals of making it easier to pay money in.
A Service Design view can help everyone think about the longer term outcome of helping customers ‘retire well’, and more importantly, convince others that it’s a good idea.
Doing like a Service Designer
In my presentation, I share a few examples of what you’ll actually be doing if you decide to take the plunge. Most UXers will be familiar with a discovery stage where you learn about user needs so you can design product features. Put a service design lens on this however and you go much broader and deeper into what people think, do and feel when they’re not even using your product. Why? With this different perspective, you uncover opportunities you may otherwise miss and start to understand how your service could fit into their lives. A solid understanding of how to gather insight from observing and interviewing your users is crucial.
You’ll also find yourself brushing up on your workshop facilitation skills to bring together users, stakeholders and designers. Co-design sessions will help you develop service ideas and stress test your assumptions but you’ll need a few simple tools and methods at your fingertips. – like ideation, role play, or empathy mapping.
Service Design isn’t easy
In the presentation, I spoke about ‘Harsh Truths’. Service Design requires a highly collaborative way of working and you can find yourself butting up against ingrained company culture. Sessions are normally very productive, but to clients (and UXers) used to working quietly on screens and spreadsheets it’s alien, scary and sometimes confusing. Exposing some people to a new way of working can make them feel uncomfortable.
The value you bring as a Service Designer is different too. Service Design goes beyond the design of an interface or app. It is often more about bringing people together, getting them to agree what’s important, getting them to understand what the problem is, getting closer to customers and having a good intuition for what customers need from you as a business. All of those things are really, really valuable, but quite different to how you think about the value of your work in UX.
I once worked several long weekends on a prototype and when the client was asked at the end of the project what they were most pleased with, they didn’t even mention the design.They talked about the journey we took them on, “You got our thinking from A to B and now we look at the way we do this completely differently”. In practice, that’s what Service Design is often about, activating others to shift their thinking.
Don’t wait for permission. Start today
If you’re looking for ways to increase the impact of your work, the time is now. A lot of the tech appearing in our lives has less to do with a screen and more to do with a physical environment, such as Google Home, smart thermostats or (depending on where you live) driverless cars. As Google’s Eric Schmidt said a number of years ago, “The internet will disappear….it will be part of your presence all the time.” The UX toolkit can be too narrow to address some of these emerging design challenges.
Embrace a Service Design mindset and you’ll have a whole new arsenal of tools and methods you can use to tackle your next problem.