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Takeaways and reminders from SXC18

Service Experience Camp is not just another conference. Thought by service designers, for service designers, it is a 2-day “unconference” whose new edition always tops up the previous ones thanks to an amazing selection of design leaders as speakers, a passionate and proactive audience of practitioners, and a long list of carefully planned details that make participants feel like they don’t need to worry about anything else than just enjoying rich conversations and an inspiring atmosphere.

Gathering around 300 people from all over Europe on the first weekend of November, unfortunately this year’s edition – the fifth –  was announced to be the last. Perhaps this was the reason why its bar-camp, a grassroots format to provide participants with an informal space to run their own sessions, was so successful.  In fact, throughout the two days participants held a total of 30 open sessions, alternated by keynote speeches, networking moments, and delicious meals.

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One of the sessions run by participants

 

Before SXC18: Service Design Tour

This year, the conference program was preceded by a day-long Service Design Tour across 4 Berlin-based service design agencies. Having planned a longer stay in town, as soon as it was announced I immediately reserved a spot to discover different agencies approaches to service design and collect insights on how they overcome their most pressing challenges.

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The Service Design Tour kicked off at Service Innovation Labs

 

Starting the day with a breakfast in Kreuzberg, we first spent a couple hours at Service innovation Labs and then moved to Aperto by IBM. After a quick lunch on the way we visited Fjord, and lastly, Idean.

Here is a summary of my key insights from the Service Design Tour.

 

  • Impact beats enthusiasm

Whether we mean “impact” as financial, societal, environmental, or most often as the effect of our work on the client, the random and enthusiastic use of design thinking in business contexts seems to have come of age, leaving room to an increasing tendency towards making sure our service design efforts have a meaning and leave a long lasting, positive footprint not only on our users and clients but also (sometimes) on a larger scale.

 

 

  • The rise of new professional roles, a.k.a. what the heck is a business designer?

Something that really caught my attention concerns the rise of the new role of business designers, which just a bunch of years ago was not common at all. Perhaps due to the two world of business and design increasingly leaning towards each other, not only all 4 agencies we visited have business designers in the team, but they are actively recruiting more! Hence, upon investigation, I now understand a business designer is someone who is in charge of researching, testing, measuring and implementing a range of business related aspects into the service development process (like business models, service pricing, etc.).

In addition to business designers, another emerging professional role seems to be that of legal designers, as in those figures who take care of different legal aspects to take into account in innovation, and that are no longer engaged as an external party as in the past. In facts, it seems like almost all agencies we visited, regardless of stressing their core value proposition around service design, try to build a team of different professionals whose aim is to address and overcome challenges in the innovation journey from many different points of view.   

 

  • Team work

As opposed to the classic consultancy offering, most of these service design agencies seem to believe in building up (internal) multidisciplinary teams around a challenge, rather than allocating individual consultants to project. I really liked learning about this, as I strongly believe that sharing the joys and sorrows of a winding road with someone that has your same mindset leads to greater results.

 

Service Experience Camp 2018

Following the past edition theme “struggling for change”, this year focused on the topic of “crafting delight”, meant as the art of crafting experiences that delight users.

 

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Top 3 talks

Like in the past years, this edition’s content was very well curated from A to Z. Yet there are 3 talks that, in my opinion, will stay memorable:

1) Designing for Future life events  – Karolina Kohler, Lead Design Researcher @ Kaiser X Labs

Having never worked in the insurance industry nor bought myself an insurance, I had hardly reflected upon how different the characteristics of an insurance service are in comparison to any other service. Through her fun, engaging speech, Karolina Kohler walked us through her reflections on how aspects like value proposition, touchpoints and loyalty require a different approach in designing insurance services. In facts, in this context the purpose is not to delight users with enjoyable experience, but rather to provide concrete and efficient help whenever a tragic moment in life happens. And since that future tragic moment is something people prefer to not think about and that, by definition, is unexpected, insurance services are like “buying shoes that you receive yearly updates on, but never wear”, “or buying a movie by only knowing the title but without being able to watch it before the next 30 years”. Through a bunch of simple examples we all realised the design of insurance service runs on completely different premises than any other services!

 

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Karolina Kohler, Lead Design Researcher @ Kaiser X Labs

 

2) How making accessible services benefits all users – Alistair Duggin – Head of accessibility @ Government Digital Services UK

1/7 people in the world suffers from disability, and with an average of population age continuing to rise, it is likely that sooner or later disabilities will affect us – either directly or indirectly. With the mission of designing digital services that any citizen in the UK can use, Alistair Duggin reminded us how solutions designed for extreme users may positively impact other “less extreme” users. For instance, providing users the option to indicate whether they prefer to be contacted via written text only, they not only remove barriers for people with speaking impairments, but also for people who can’t answer calls during the day or that have very limited time to check their phone.  

 

3) Future-proof design for urban mobility in growing cities – Hanna Kops, Head of Experience @ Transport for London

Starting her speech with a blunt statement: “design is not about solving problems, it is about creating a space for people to experience something differently”, Hanna Kops set the stage in no time, walking the audience through a few important moments that marked the interesting story of the London tube. One of these is when the first pocket map of the tube was distributed in town: it was visual, tangible, and it helped people have a reference when defining London’s boundaries. By including all tube lines – from the central ones to those that touch upon the greater London geographical area, this first version of the London tube made people living in the most remote outskirts start feeling like they belonged to the city. “If the tube gets me home, I am a londoner too”. By redesigning the way people would experience public transport as a public space, over time London created a culture of public transport, by design.

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Hanna Kops, Head of Experience @ Transport for London

 

Cool hacks

During the conference I spotted a few practical example of cool workarounds that people have come up with to overcome their daily challenges.

  •  Lost in Jargon

The airline industry, like any other industry, is packed with acronyms and abbreviations. To deal with complex jargon, Maria Lumiaho and her team at Finnair created a Slack bot that, upon request, will suggest what these acronyms stand for whenever being lost in jargon during a meeting.

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Finnair team’s slackbot to navigate through acronyms and abbreviations

 

  •  Spread the news

To deal with complex stakeholder engagement, Frankie Abralind from Sibley Memorial Hospital hospital came up with the idea of making weekly postcard-like micro reports of his team work’s status updates and started distributing them on desks of key internal stakeholders, with the aim of informing them and making them feel like their involvement counts.

 

 

Takeaways and reminders

 

  • Stakeholder management goes beyond PR, a.k.a. design for perseverance

 

In a session about stakeholder engagement, we all found each other on the same page in facing lots of difficulties engaging with people in the organisations where we work. The conclusion drawn during this sessions was that we should apply some simple tricks like inviting people for coffee or having a smoke together to set up a space to communicate informally. I must admit, I was pretty disappointed about it. In facts, stakeholder engagement needs to push itself way beyond the basics of PR to really be effective. Thankfully, later Frankie Abralind reminded us during his talk that no matter the environment where we work, the only way to break through is to be persistent, make and update internal stakeholder maps on a regular basis, and create ownership over progresses by keeping everyone informed. In a nutshell: try, try again, and again.  

 

  • Will ethics in design ever go beyond recommendations?  

 

Two years ago I was sitting in the main room listening to a talk about ethics in design. In this edition, two years later and in the same room, here we go again. For how interesting it always is to listen to different people’s perspectives on the topic, I couldn’t do but noticing that in the meanwhile conversations about ethical design are still where they used to be, meaning they haven’t really moved beyond a set of general recommendations about aspects to take into account. So the question is: will they ever?

 

  • The measurement tension

 

From these two days, it emerged really clearly that nowadays everybody is busy measuring the tangible and mostly the intangible (yes, against all odds even More Than Metrics has fallen into the measuring trap), yet everybody is still struggling to prove the value of service design and having troubles showing that we are actually able to bridge concepts to implementation.

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A snapshot from a session of SXC18

  • Many in distress make the sorrow less

 

300 people is not a huge number. However, the audience at SXC18 was a very specific crowd of passionate people who are deeply involved in practicing and advocating for service design, from an organisational to a a global level. To this extent, the fact that that the service design community might not be enormous, but that on the other hand is very active, collaborative and dedicated was a good reminder. No matter how challenging our journey as practitioners can be, it made me feel like we are all allies in driving a disruptive, powerful mindset change.  

 

UX and Service Design: are they essentially the same thing?

Since service design started gaining ground in business conversations, it is not rare to come across questions or comments like: “what do you mean by service?”, and “Ah, it’s basically UX design” or “Ok, but can you make wireframes?”.

In facts, considering the increasing intangibility of products in the digital age, the distinction between products and services nowadays is subject to frequent misunderstandings and many people, both design and non-design practitioners, struggle to see the differences between design disciplines like UX design or product design.

After seeing some patterns in these conversations, I got triggered to make some reflections on the role of service design in relation to other design disciplines, and particularly UX design, and I decided to share them on October 18th at one of Amsterdam’s most popular events in the design field, Ladies That UX.

This post aims as summarising my thoughts about this topic and share them with the dedicated and passionate network of Laurea SID students.

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A snapshot from my talk at Ladies That UX Amsterdam

Beyond tangibility

According to the World Bank’s World Development Indicators, nowadays the services sector accounts for almost 70% of global GDP, as in the index which is globally used to measure the market value of all the goods and services produced in a certain period of time. I find this pretty funny, considering that GDP stands for Gross Domestic Product, but also very representative of the world we live now.

In facts, whether we are aware of what a service is, services are all around us and we experience them everyday. And yet, the word “service” is still very little understood.

Back in time, the traditional distinction between a service and a product was seen as lying in physical evidence: as opposed to a product being something we can touch, smell, and see, a service is difficult to assess. Now, considering that in the digital age that distinction breaks down substantially, if nowadays our job as product designers, UX designers and service designers is about designing intangible experiences, are we essentially all doing the same thing?

My answer is no.

This is because the distinction between a product and a service goes beyond the physical aspect of the experience.

As opposed to a product being something that the customer purchases as a one-off, a service is an intangible experience characterised by an ongoing relationship with a service provider, who offers access to a solution that delivers value.

To put it in other words, the difference between a digital product and a service lies in ownership. If products, once purchased, are owned by the customer, services instead offer access to a solution without implying the ownership over it. Think about Spotify: it gives us access to a vast library of songs, and it’s no longer asking us to buy them one by one.

If we take the distinction in these terms, a service mindset doesn’t only lead to longer term, stronger relationship with customers but often also to a different business model. For these (and more) reasons, the design of a product (be it digital or analog) and a service require different focuses.

 

“A service is something that a customer uses but does not own.”

Mat Hunter, CDO at UK Design Council

 

What UXD and SD have in common

Now that we can agree upon the fact that these two disciplines have a reason to be called with different names, we should start from acknowledging that, as both falling under the design umbrella, they do have a few aspects in common.

1. Designing experiences

One of the reasons why the term user experience (UX) design can be confusing is that all design disciplines should be directed towards designing meaningful experiences. The distinction lies in the fact that some will have a strong focus on the digital environment, some will not.

2. Designing for people

Whatever the type of experience we are busy designing, the ultimate goal of both UX and Service (as well as other types of) designers is to make sure this experience adds value to someone’s life. We aim to understand our user’s needs and design solutions that will help overcoming their main challenges.

3 Drawing from similar tools and methods 

To address design challenges, we arguably go through the same creative process and draw from a very similar set of tools and methods. Whatever the design output, at the end of the day sketching, conducting surveys, facilitating workshops, and mapping stakeholder are our daily supper.

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A summary of aspects Service and UX design have in common, from my presentation at Ladies that UX Amsterdam

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A map of UX and Service Design tools by Clearleft

 

The main differences of a service design approach

In my experience, there are three main aspects that mark a different approach between Service and UX design.

1. Addressing the design challenge from a different height

The most fundamental difference between UX design and service design lies in the nature of the design problem that we are trying to solve. While UX designers typically zoom into designing very detailed experiences which are often confined to an individual “touchpoints” within a service, service designers zoom out and aim to understand the bigger picture.

2. Looking beyond and across single touchpoints

While service designers are interested in users’ experience of individual touchpoints, they are also interested in how those touchpoints are connected, how people interact with a service, and what the experience of that journey is. Provided that UX designers and service designers all start from asking themselves the same questions: “Who are we designing for?”,  “What are these people’s needs, goals, and ambitions?”,  UX designers will focus on identifying the most important tasks a user would want to complete within a website and an app, and turn them into a seamless digital experience. Service designers instead will look into the end-to-end experience across and beyond digital touchpoints. That could concern other touchpoints, the brand, and anything else that altogether forms an experience in the eye of the user.  

3. Bridging the voice of different stakeholders 

In UX design, when we talk about “users”, we are almost always talking about customers, or at least an end-user who will be experiencing the service. In service design instead, the approach is again a bit wider. As aiming to understand systems, or rather ecosystems, and connect products and services into a unique experience,  gather the experiences and needs of not only the customer, but also of other users behind the service visibility line, as in behind the front stage. They identify stakeholders and work together on both the customer side and service side to co-create possible solutions and service improvements. This is because the staff, as well as other possible stakeholders like suppliers and so on also interact with touchpoints and the quality of their experience using those touchpoints—as well as the ease of their own journey around the service’s “backstage”—will have a strong impact on the eventual quality of the customer experience.

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Another shot from my presentation at Ladies that UX Amsterdam, summarising how a service design approach differs from a UX design approach

 

UX and Service Design to improve patients’ experience across the health continuum

In the attempt to provide a practical example on how service and UX designers can and should collaborate to design greater experiences, I will share some insights on a project I am currently working on in the field of healthcare. In facts, services in the healthcare industry are systems where many stakeholders with different needs interact and share value one another, therefore requiring a thorough understanding of the context not only to deliver value to end users but to improve the experience of different players within the same ecosystem.

In this case, the project goal is to empower patients in having a better control on their health data and take a proactive role in their health management.  

Below a short summary of how we are addressing the complexity of the project from a service (and UX) design standpoint.

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The health continuum, known as patient lifecycle

 

Designing beyond in-clinic experience 

Usually the peaks in a patient’s journey concern their clinical experience: in the best case scenario, that particular experience might involve professional trained staff, good and prompt communication with the patient, short waiting times etc. So, overall, a great experience. However, research shows that between one visit at the clinic and the next one, there seem to be experience gaps where patients have needs that are not catered to, such as feeling in control over one’s personal health status and being reassured. Essentially, in between one touchpoint and the other, there is often nothing in between. Building on this insight, our efforts are currently focusing on analysing the end-to-end patient journey, or life-cycle, to identify experience gaps and better frame unmet needs. We believe this will help building a solid baseline to support patients in being better informed and proactive about their health.

Identifying new opportunities by listening to different stakeholders’ points of view

 Starting from the fact that this project is aimed empowering people to take active ownership on their own health, one of the main goal we as a team have is to make sure people stay healthy. After starting from framing patients needs we figured out that, if we wanted to understand the context properly, we should not only look beyond touchpoint but also understand the perspective of different stakeholders who are part of this system. As an example, by including pharmacies in the conversation, we found out that people who are prescribed with medicines very often don’t show up at the pharmacy to pick up their drugs. This suggested that, even by designing a great in clinic and home-care experience, if we didn’t cross other (major and minor) stakeholders’ insights we would have failed, somehow, at reaching our ultimate goal and missed out on some good opportunities.

Aligning different visions through service design

When I started this project, it was already at an advanced development stage. On my first week, my team members shared a link to a high resolution interactive prototype of the service we were there to design. Though, as soon as I started reading documents and talking to other team members I figured that there were many contrasting opinions about what the service proposition would be about. People would stress different aspects of it, and as a result, give quite different definitions of the service value proposition. Hence, by zooming out from the digital prototype and taking some time to visually describe a patient’s experience, we brought together all team members and kicked off a conversation that eventually led to an alignment of different points of view. By taking a step back to look at the bigger picture, we are now more confident that the experience on and across touchpoints is clear and complete and that really meets users needs, other than business goals. And mostly, we figured that neither a UX design nor a service design approach wins over the other: in order to deliver an experience that is both good at a high and low level we simply need these two design disciplines to work hand in hand.

 

Fiamma Degl’Innocenti

 

Sources

World Bank, World Development Indicators, http://wdi.worldbank.org/table/4.2 

 

Design when everybody designs

When, a couple of years ago, I announced I was going to quit my job to attend the HPI School of Design Thinking, most of my family and friends thought I was about to neglect the business path I had been following to find my true self in sketching trees on a notebook. (Which, by the way, is a back thought I never really excluded).

Later on, when sitting next to a scientist, a film producer, a psychologist and a dancer, all aiming to become design thinkers, I wondered what would bring us all together.

Once clarified that our goal was not to become excellent drawers, what does design mean to us? And if background is not a differentiator, what’s that make us feel in the right place?

Tim Brown (2008) lists a number of characteristics shaping the profile of a design thinker:

  • Empathy, as in the ability to observe situation from multiple perspectives
  • Integrative thinking, as in approaching a problem holistically
  • Optimism, as in having trust in finding a solution that fits, no matter how blurry the process is
  • Experimentalism, as in curiosity and resilience to failure
  • Collaboration, as in a natural tendency to work in teams

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This last point is further explained, again by Tim Brown in his book “Change by design”, where he summarizes the profile of  design thinker as a “T-shaped” person, meaning someone with a deep expertise that can clearly contribute to the outcome, but also with a certain capacity and disposition for collaboration across disciplines.

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