Blog: Can service design really reveal something new about people?2022-05-16
Service design has become a widely utilized method for service innovation in the private and public sector. But what is it about, and does it add to the previously known methods of service development and innovation?
To understand service design and what makes it unique, we inspected what service design encompasses. This task proved to be an almost devastating task because there are virtually hundreds of design tools and methods. In short, we concluded that service design is typically described as the activity of capturing new ideas and converting them into solutions, based on a human orientation (meaning that one or several stakeholders participate in the activity) with the help of design-focused visualization methods.
Our literature review led us to identify these three perspectives to service design:
- Dyadic interaction between the firm and its customers that aims at developing user-friendly service offerings.
- Systemic interaction with focus on capturing how multiple actors embedded in a network co-create value, and the underlying rules, regulations and mental models that govern the value co-creation.
- Customer activity, which refers to the activities that humans engage within and beyond commercial settings to achieve their goals.
As we were particularly interested in people, we chose to inspect customer activity as the basis for service design. Although we found some methods that focus on exploring how people act within a certain situation (e.g. context-mapping), we found that there was a lack of a method that would help uncover sets of recurrent activities that people engage in to achieve a goal or a life theme. Such a method would help identify the set of activities that people engage in which could guide service designers in creating new solutions or redesigning old ones.
What would then an activity-based method look like? We proposed an “Activity Set Mapping” that takes the starting point in sets of activities that people engage in. Our empirical context was to develop a recruitment app to bring together job seekers and recruiting companies. We invited a set of business students, who were entering their careers, to list all activities related to their career development. Then, we asked them to place those activities on a sheet of paper based on the sacrifice (the higher the sacrifice the further away from center), benefits in terms of fun (the more fun, the larger the circles around each activity), and frequency (strong lines for frequent activities and thin lines for infrequent ones).
These insights were then taken back to the recruitment firm, and the service design team reflected on the activities on four quadrants: “Challenging” (highly fun but also including high sacrifices) that the firm could support, “Enjoyable” (highly fun and low in sacrifice) that the firm could support and emphasize, “Tedious” (boring and high in sacrifice) that the firm could help to eliminate or make more fun/ less effortful, “Boring” (low in sacrifice and not fun) that could be eliminated or made more fun”. We then took these results back to recruiters to match these insights with their needs to find best fitting candidates with minimum effort. As a result, the recruitment app was redesigned to fit the needs of both stakeholder groups.
As can be seen from our example, service design is a hands-on exercise, where the main task is involving different stakeholder groups. The more uncomfortable this task feels, the more important it may be. We wish that firms and public organizations would daringly test out new service design methods – if not our "Activity Set Mapping", one of the other available methods!
Bitr. professor i marknadsföring vid Hanken Svenska Handelshögskolan och Ander Visiting Professor vid CTF