Service Design Impacts Customers

“When you have two coffee shops right next to each other, and each sells the exact same coffee at the exact same price, service design is what makes you walk into one and not the other.” – 31 Volts Service Design

Customer experience is no longer just a concept. For discerning companies, it has become the most crucial positive link between their business and customers, and possibly no one would disagree on the impact that both negative and positive customer experiences have.  Those working in customer service know how tough it is to ensure constantly, top class experiences for the customers, and it is the job of their company to give them all the support and ‘weaponry’ they require to combat the challenges of customer service. Service design is one such potent weapon, and reading the quote above, it becomes clear how service design affects customers and their buying decisions.

Companies need consistently good customer experiences to garner support for their business, engage customers for a long time, and change internal traditional and complex methods and practices, in order to simplify them. Service design helps companies to address key challenges, including long-term customer engagement. It helps to align the company, its business, and the expectations of the customers, which in turn enables a company to balance its own needs in relation to its customers and the market.

Anyone running a business, or functioning within the customer service realm, would know that customer experiences for a major part deal with the emotional side of customers. Customer would ‘experience’ a company depending on their current mood, joys, annoyances, and immediate needs. Even a slight and seeming deviation, could throw customers off, and turn a possible pleasant experience to one that leads the customer away from your company. However, a company must also deal with the rational side of its business, processes, guidelines, and systems, such that while serving customers it is also able to maintain its own needs. This all round, holistic approach that takes customer emotions and business rationale into consideration, is what service design is all about. It blends the art of creativity and inspiration to engage customers, while ensuring that the business delivers results, which in turn would lead to better experiences and service to customers.

Service design is about a practical approach – clear business goals that are understood and sought after by all in the company, and utilization of customer insights resulting in better customer experiences and increased profits for the business. The goal of a company with regard to customers should be translate their insights into concepts and customized offerings, leading to better experiences and interactions for customers. Service design deals with deliverables that have tangible and practical solutions as a path to consistent improvements in customer service. It bridges the gap that usually exists between what customers want and say, and the actions that a company takes to make the ‘wishes’ of customers come true. New and improved experiences are required to ensure that customers continue to or begin viewing the company in a different and positive light.

Service design begins on the inside – the requirements of the business. These needs could be anything – increased profitability, reduction in costs, serving customers well, retaining or bringing back customers, and others. The business’ goals must be properly defined, and the path to attaining them, fall within the realm and scope of service design. To attain high and consistent levels of customer experiences, it is essential that a company and its representatives understand and make changes internally, taking into consideration insights, data of, and feedback from customers. Service design helps a company to include customer emotions and rationale, and formulate responses through tangible concepts that would contribute to meeting customer expectations and the needs of the business.

The key to a successful service design is moving from customer insights to action, by including customer interactions, behaviours, overall ‘journey’ with the company, and putting them together in a manner that would inspire the company to provide better for its customers. Businesses need to build their capability to put data and insights to work, test their understanding of their customers, and then improve whatever requires enhancements. If a business is unable to build such ability soon enough, they can enlist the help of service design professionals.

We have discussed several times that companies are unable to meet customer expectations since every department tends to work in a silo, which in turn leads to slow and inefficient service to customers. Service design helps customer service staff to know exactly what they need in order to enhance customer experiences and raise the standards of service to them, and provide these insights back to the company in order to affect changes and breakdown silos. Reaching a level of excellence with customers requires a lot more than just strategy. The execution is critical and requires skills, techniques, and unique methods in order to engage customers to the business in ways that would be sustainable. Service design provides the necessary tools to help a company deal with internal obstacles and challenges that stand in the way of top class customer experiences, thereby adding value for the business and the customers alike. The idea is to help the company see itself in the same light that customers do – we know that those companies that put themselves in the place of customers are the ones that succeed.

Service design wins where surveys conducted in the market fail. While a survey may let a company know what customers like, they would be unable to pinpoint the reasons for those preferences. Service design on the other hand utilizes a variety of tools to help businesses understand the experiences of customers at a more profound level. The tools in play would range from customer interviews, close observation of customer behaviour, workshops for and discussions with customers, and other such engaging methods, helping companies to understand why the actions and words of customers usually do not match. Service design opens up the mind of companies to gain a broader perspective, break silos, align the efforts of all in the company, and ultimately gain a deep understanding of how to deliver top experiences, and build engaging relationships with customers.

Service design uses a scientific approach – it has to do with observation, and visualization of ideas before presenting solutions. Visibility and tangibility is what provides clarity, which in turn leads to buy-in from every department and employee in a company. A strategy that everyone concurs with may not always be a reality, but through service design the communication of the strategy is clearer, and at least creates awareness among the employees as to the nature of ‘conversations’ they must have with and experiences they must provide to customers. It is these touch-points and interactions that customers have with companies that either allow customers to love a company or turn away from it forever. A clear strategy provides direction, lends confidence to the implementers, and enables them to remain resolute in action.

Service design affects customers in a number ways since the tools, skills, and strategies it utilizes can make top experiences a reality for customers, and ensures that the company constantly endeavours to provide top class service. Service design is the bridge between a company’s abilities and the expectations of customers – removing the gap will build sustainable customer relationships, leading to loyalty and profitability.

 

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