Joe Heapy, co-founder of Engine Service Design answers the question of what makes some organisations better at getting more of the right services to market, faster?
Many traditional organisations are trying to shift towards a more customer-centric way of doing business. The understanding being that putting the customer first through providing a positive customer experience before, during and after the sale will drive customer loyalty and repeat business. Disruptive companies like Uber, Deliveroo and Airbnb will continue to thrive even with recent bad publicity because they craft services around the customer - understanding what they want, what makes them buy (and keep buying) and how to get more of the things that they want to market quickly. In short, they have embraced many key principles of service design.
It’s a mind-set not just a process
A service design mind-set is the advantage that many tech brands and successful start-ups use to differentiate themselves in market. It is what they are using to compete. They are building solutions around the customer and their world, placing great value on ensuring a consistent five-star experience. I’m aiming to give you some insights on the work we’ve done with $1 billion+ companies for nearly two decades, helping them to adopt a more design-led customer-centric approach to doing business. For companies trying to get there it takes huge buy-in to shift culture or operating processes successfully and service design can help to elevate the customer experience without costly mistakes.
For the most part ‘service’ is people generated. The product, its core functionality, pricing and even the business processes that customers encounter can all be copied by competitors. But what ‘wins the day’ and keeps customers is a business’s ability to connect emotionally. In Engine’s annual customer experience survey, now in its fourth year, 66% of people say the quality of service is the most important factor in recommending a service to a friend. This was ranked ahead of price (31%) which once again demonstrates that competing on price alone is not enough.
Organisations are discovering that customer experience challenges require a different attitude and approach, not just to design and development, but to the business change required to deliver new products and services to market.
The question is: What makes some organisations better than the rest at getting more of the right services to market, faster?
The answer: On the ground it’s moving from a management approach that’s technology, marketing or resource optimisation-led, to one that’s customer-inspired and vision-led with a more experimental and faster pace; one that engages and excites teams. One in which insights inform service propositions; propositions inform experience design and experience design informs capability development, in that order.
These are the fundamentals of service design, what we call Design-led Change, an approach that recognises that putting something new and of value in customers’ hands isn’t just about completing a product development cycle.
It’s not just aesthetics
Beautiful design isn’t just about aesthetics. Although how a service looks and feels is vital, beautiful design has always been about the weaving together of great looks, great functionality, great usability, originality and a sense of being right for the time and the culture. Making all of this work elegantly together is the great skill of designers, and when it works it appeals to people on a very deep level.
Disruptive businesses by their very nature are grounded by a bold central vision, but it’s the detail of design and delivery that determine success. The successful ones understand the need to provide a consistent level of quality and customer service. So the craft and choreography of the entire experience is paramount. A Design-led approach focuses teams on total value creation from the start, making the case for a holistic assessment of business benefits, which should include a valuation of ‘softer’ yet quantifiable aspects including: positive brand perception, colleague engagement and attractiveness to partners.
Avoid reverting back to old habits
How many times has your organisation set out on a type of change program only for it to slow to nothing? Existing approaches to calculating benefits may not apply when the proposed solution is new to the business and potentially new to consumers. In this instance the challenge of assessing the total business benefit of a proposed solution, which may materialise in full over several years, can be confounding. This can mean decision-makers revert to assessing solutions on cost alone resulting in great ideas being compromised or cancelled.
Radically new ways of working are often required to bring better, more customer-centred propositions to market. Innovating both the proposition AND the process of creating it is required at the same time. Otherwise teams and individuals slowly revert back to traditional ways of defining requirements and making decisions.
It’s important to recognise what motivates people to commit, and in some cases to commit more than they otherwise would, to the outcomes of a project. Ultimately the work should in some way feel purposeful and rewarding for all those involved. This is something that start-ups do very well – mobilising a highly dedicated team around a strong vision and rewarded them in ways not always monetarily-based.
If you are inside of an organisation that wants to use more customer-centric thinking to bring valuable solutions to market and you are looking for a tried and trusted framework, service design can help. The companies that succeed in getting more of the right services to market are the ones that recognise that it takes an approach that inspires and supports the whole organisation to invest in it, implement it well, and make it into a shared consideration that is supported by a call to action from the top.
About Joe Heapy
Joe Heapy is co-founder and Director of Engine Service Design. With roots in industrial product design, Joe is an advocate of the social value of design in improving people’s lives. Joe has worked with clients across sectors to improve business performance and the experiences of service users. He helps organisations to formulate strategy and deliver service innovation: improving and interconnecting customer experiences.