Measuring Services – A Book Review

servicedesign

– DO YOUR MATH!

“Service Design: From Insight to Implementation” by Andy Polaine, Lavrans Loevlie and Ben Reason (2013 Rosenfeld Media) is a positively different service design book, whereas this – rather loose – book review is written as an extra assignment of the course New Service Development by Tiia-Marina Tuominen de Sousa e Silva from SID Master Program ’12.

I must say, when I got the task to read yet another book on service design and write about it to this blog, I sighed. As a student of the subject I feel I have already covered all the angles the books can present. Service Design books seem to appear like mushrooms in the rain. However, the authors of this book think there are only a few of them – and they are right.

The books that I have come across are either about the (superb) philosophy and thinking behind service design, or listings of its various (trendy) methods. The merit of this book is that it aims at being the first real textbook on the subject, connecting the philosophy with the practicalities on grass root level. I can picture this book being learned in management studies everywhere.

You will do yourself and the field of service design a great favour if you always include the definition of performance indicators in your proposals.

Contents

The book is divided into nine chapters in addition to the intro that explains its existence. First, the basic difference between product and service is explained in the chapters 1-2. The following chapters 3-4 are about people, understanding their relationships, and how to capture the insights of the people’s everyday life into the design. Chapters 5-6 cover the defining and mapping of the service ecology and describe how service blueprint is used to view the service through the eyes of customers and users.

Chapter 7 explains the importance of prototyping the service experiences among the people on the field before any development costs are incurred. Prototypes need criteria and chapter 8 is about measuring the success or failure of the design. Measuring is not done only to monitor a service’s performance for management, but to empower the employees to understand their impact to the overall quality of the service. Chapter 9 speculates on where service design is heading on the basis of trends the authors’ are seeing in the field.

People in the Heart of Services – Employees as service users

The authors prefer to use the word user instead of customer, since it encompasses all the parties that have stake in the service. When the needs of the customers and the company are defined, the company often stands for management, whose puppets the employees are. Yet the management is seldom co-producing the service with the customers. After the service designers have gathered insights by observing and studying the employees’ procedures, the outcomes of the research are likely to be overruled by ideas of the management – that eventually is the customer of the service design agency.

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Measuring the impact that service design has on business has not been researched too much. I think this is due to the subject being quite flammable in many organizations experiencing changes. “Service Design: From Insight to Implementation” is the first book that introduces measuring services (at least to me). Unlike many seem to believe, measuring services is very important from the employees’ point of view, because it gives them a broader view on their own work, the efficiency of their own performance, and its value to the organization.

It is a common mistake to retain the top-down view of measurement. It has proven to be valuable to share the customer satisfaction data with staff on an on-going basis. It helps staff to highlight system problems that prevent them from providing good service, and provides a basis for an organization wide discussion about improving the customer experience.

Service Experience = How (well) the service is being performed?

Service experiences are rooted in the company culture. There still are many service organizations, especially in the public services, where the organization is divided into silos (correlating the business units) that communicate with each other badly. This industrial mindset deteriorates the service experience that consists of all the customer’s experiences in interaction with the company. Service design is likely to change the company culture.

It is vital that the top management is fully behind the idea of design, as well as measuring it. The act of measuring is as important as what is being measured, since what is measured is likely to improve. Therefore, what is measured should be driven by what is most likely to create a shared culture of improvement within the organization. Thus, create valuable, long-term relationships with customers and enable sustainable growth. But if leaders don’t agree with the strategic reasoning of measurement, they will not take the results seriously and act on them.

“The point of difference to any specific service is how it is delivered”. The authors consider this as the performance of the service. Performance on the other hand can have two meanings: performance as experience and performance as value. The experience aspect of performance describes the way the service is delivered to the service user on the front stage. The overall experience of the service, that is what matters, is comprised out of the complexity of touch points the service consists of. Hence, the service designers are needed.

The value aspect of performance is the backstage measure of the service and tells the company how well the service is performing. Depending on the interest, it is examined, how well the service is achieving the results promised to the service users, or how cost effectively the service is performing for the organization. The latter is the way the companies usually consider performance. It is challenging to the service designers to measure the hard metrics of business, measuring the soft aspects of people’s experiences at the same time.

Guidelines for Measurement

The authors claim, that service designers and service providers both need to prove that design provides a return on investment. Results can be measured in profits made or costs saved; in an improved customer/user experience; value created to society or reduced drain on the environment. There are some typical findings in service design projects that can be translated to results on the bottom line: new sales, longer use, more use, more sales, more self-service, better delivery processes and better quality.

To focus the work and make everyone involved more accountable, define what you want to measure before you start the design work. You also need the before numbers to prove the success of after. It is smart to establish the key goals right away and assign concrete targets to them. In this way you will be measured against WHAT YOU INTEND to influence, not what someone else decided they should measure. Next you will need to figure out the right way to measure in order to get results that help everyone continue to learn and improve in the future as well.

To base measurement on the problems and successes people have using a service allows streamlining delivery while improving customer experience. Nowadays data is available for everyone through customer ratings and purchasing patterns. The purpose of measuring is shifting away from simply being a management tool to a way to engage managers, frontline staff and customers in collaborative service improvement. Good feedback channels enable customers to tell service providers about problems and opportunities. The same measures set standards for both managers and staff.

The most common mistake, when measuring service experience, is to speak with customers or users only once. It is crucial to measure people’s experience in different stages of service, whether a service meets people’s expectations over time. That will help companies to both acquire and retain customers. Increased revenue and higher margins should follow naturally. The second common mistake is to speak to customers who have used only one service channel. That will not give any valuable data about the quality of the service as a whole.

In my opinion we, the SID students, should concentrate more on learning how to make a case for ROI. This could be accomplished by planning and carrying out concrete SD learning projects for real companies.

Research shows that customer satisfaction scores have a direct relation to a customer’s tendency to buy a service and to remain loyal to a provider.

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