Attaining and Retaining Top Class Service Design

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“Service design focuses on experiences and interactions, rather than products. The principles of service design seek to balance aesthetics and human needs with organizational capabilities,” – Lucy Kimbell

Customer service has emerged as a central tenet in modern business practices. Customers represent an important constituency and a positive customer experience can generate major business impacts. Therefore, business operators are working to create and sustain outstanding customer service benchmarks and practices in a bid to improve the experience of the end-user. In modern times, businesses have begun to use service design, which “draws on many concepts, ranging from user experience, marketing, and project management in order to optimize new services.” This practice pertains to planning and organizing business resources with a view to improve employee experiences and boost the customer’s experience. We shall examine some of the methods that help a business to shape and attain top class service design in the following paragraphs.

The tenets of excellent service design reduce service components to their basics in a bid to design synergies. For instance, a restaurant that pursues service design may choose to focus on the components and processes that deliver food to the customer’s table. Restaurant employees such as hosts, servers, and chefs are marshalled to construct a competent experience for restaurant patrons. In addition, back-end processes and moving parts are synergized to create an emphatic dining experience for patrons. These processes include sourcing and receiving food ingredients, creating special menus for the weekends, server to chef communications, the delivery of prepared dishes, etc. We note that top class service design should operate to optimize these inputs into creating a fine dining experience.

Experts have propounded five basic principles that underlie top class service design. These principles include the user-centered aspect, which hinges on a thorough understanding of the end-user, achieved through qualitative research. A co-creative approach is central to top class service design because it involves all relevant stakeholders in the design process. This aspect of service design is important because every stakeholder participates actively in the creation of service design. The outcomes are gained by sequencing, which involves partitioning a complex service into separate processes. In addition, service design proponents advocate the use of visualization techniques that help to create tangible end-user experiences. Further, top class service design must take into consideration the various touch points in a network populated by interactions among various users.

Conflicts are inherent in every business model, in complex industrial processes, and in the mechanisms that drive the service industry. These conflicts and points of attrition may arise amidst competing notions of ideal (or envisioned) outcomes. We note that these notions operate in the real world scenario and remain subject to any number of variables. In light of the above, top class service design should explore and resolve any conflicts in the interests of creating an optimal service design experience. Therefore, service design architects must invest thought and explore the many contexts that can emerge in real world scenarios. These efforts can help to anticipate and forecast conflicts and pain points that may mar the end-user experience. Thus, experts opine, “focused discussion on procedures and policies exposes weak links and misalignment. They enable organizations to devise collaborative and cross functional solutions.”

Detecting and reducing points of redundancy is an important activity that can help to create top class service design. This is important because it helps to reduce wasteful actions, reduce employee frustrations, and arrest sub optimal expenditure of business resources. For instance, a manufacturer of children’s garments can survey its production processes and supply chain operations in a bid to discover wastage. These points can emerge in the supply chain wherein competing vendors may offer similar products at different prices. Wastage can also occur in less-than-perfect production lines and packaging processes. The dictates of top class service design can help detect, reduce, and eliminate such wastage and lead to better business outcomes. Thus, we may state, “eliminating redundancies conserves energy, improves employees’ efficiency, and reduces costs.”

Insights gleaned from qualitative research can help to create top class service design. Architects of service design should create ‘personas’ with a view to map the journey of the customer and to create stakeholder maps. We note that the creation of personas allows service designers to factor in the characteristics of sections of their target audiences. This is important because it enables a holistic execution of the core principles of service design. For instance, the architects of an opera house can employ service design principles to create special access points for opera patrons with special needs. This enables a wider section of the population to visit the opera and this boosts the earnings of the business establishment.

The principles of service design can help to improve any system that hinges on human organization. For instance, city planners and urban designers can join forces to implement top class service design. The goals may include reducing a city’s impact on the natural environment, preserving non-renewable resources, boosting recycling and composting paradigms, etc. The planners may take into consideration the points of view of various stakeholders before embarking on the design process. Subsequently, they may create processes that impart a long-term boost to environment-friendly systems built into the infrastructure of said city. The design blueprint may choose to emphasize ride sharing services and bicycle friendly paths in a bid to reduce the carbon footprint of the city. Further, re-cyclers may receive hefty benefits from governments in the form of extended tax breaks. We note that these measures will enable the city to achieve top class service design and boost the quality of life for its citizens while reducing its impact on the natural environment.

Visualizing service procedures and processes is critical in the implementation of top class service design. Visualization is part of a service blueprint, “an operational tool that describes the nature and the characteristics of the service interaction.” This stage should proceed by identifying ‘front stage’ and ‘back stage’ actions and interactions that may impact customer service. We note that visualization is essentially a theoretical exercise but its outcomes can impact the workings of any organization in a tangible sense. Further, we note, “high quality touch points can drive better experiences.” This is deeply relevant in modern times because a good ‘service experience’ can resonate exceptionally with customers and may help expand the remit of a business. Great designers recommend that a top class service design should be the outcome of real world testing. The outcomes of such exercises will help to validate a design approach and spur its translation into a tangible business process. Therefore, experimentation and prototyping remain important aspects of top class service design.

In the preceding paragraphs, we have examined the various techniques that enable a business to attain top class service design. The various components of service design include personas, stakeholder mapping, customer journey maps, co-creation, storytelling, and service blueprints. Each of these analytical tools contributes to create the experience of the end-user. We note that the interactions between various groups and the shared interests of different stakeholders can generate key insights that can improve service design. This is critical because an optimized customer experience can empower a business to differentiate itself in a commoditized market.

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