‘Behind the scenes’: the factors that drive effective service design

For many of our clients, business strategy relies upon prudent approaches to both design and innovation. Consultancies like Claro are required to develop ever more ambitious and innovative solutions to meet the needs of their clients’ fast-changing priorities. To do this, consultancies often implement a ‘cookie cutter’ approach that can act to fetishize the artefact rather than understand and solve the customer’s most fundamental problems. However, developing the appropriate solution often requires a combination of methodologies to enable execution across platforms or spaces. 

From Claro’s point of view, key to the success of these projects, and a point that is often overlooked by the clients (and other consultancies), is a strong focus on people. By that we mean not just customers but also partners, employees, and other relevant stakeholders. Applying this focus to a Service Design project from the outset helps uncover unique insights and opportunities that may otherwise be missed. Our experience shows that without such an approach, we risk the creation of systems and services that may fail upon adoption. To understand this further, let’s start by breaking down the different phases involved in service design. 

You will often hear service designers refer to a ‘theatre stage’. This is where they describe the different aspects of the Service Design playing field using the analogy of a literal theatre stage. By drawing upon this analogy, we can look at a company or organisation in a fresh way. This will prove useful as we discuss the benefits and challenges of a people-centred approach.

It is straight forward enough to comprehend the two key elements of Service Design – the ‘front stage and the back stage’: this is where the more visible action happens, where the customer is physically interacting with the company via its product/service/touchpoints. A relatively easy example to imagine would be that of a fast food restaurant: we have the ‘front stage’ – everything the customer can see and interact with – where they choose what they want, place their order, eat, etc. Then we have the ‘back stage’ –  all the customer-facing activities – the restaurant staff behind the counters are busily taking orders, preparing the meals, frying the burgers, cooking the chips and so on.  

But we also have two less well known ‘behind the scenes’ elements that happen off-stage. The first is what the company does behind the scenes – aspects of running the business that go unseen by the customer. This is where the intangible assets exist, such as legal, recruitment, supply chain, HR and training. It is vital for any Service Design project to gain a clear understanding of these different behind the scenes activities to get the full picture of how customer experiences are delivered. Only when the true end-to-end, surface-to-core service experience is laid bare, are areas for improvement/development made visible. It is often the case that when the backstage fails or isn’t as choreographed as the front stage, the customer experience can be adversely affected – the promise made is not being delivered. This could lead to customers spreading negative feedback or even worse, never using your service or product again. Fortunately, it’s easy to access these behind the scenes activities, and they are often well-documented so we can integrate this knowledge into the Service Design process.

Finally, we have the ‘customer’s behind the scenes’ context, where we focus in on the lives of the customer before and after their interactions with the company/product. We try to understand what they do on a day-to-day basis, what experiences they go through, other products they use, but more importantly things we cannot see, like how they make choices, understanding of how to do a task, their biases, and the emotional impact service experiences produce within them. Many service designers see this invisible context as out of their control or responsibility. Worse, they mistakenly think they already know it all, or blindly assume they themselves are perfect proxies for customers. Some practitioners believe that all we can do is analyse how customers interact with the front stage, and then develop how the backstage and front stage best meets these customer needs.

However, at Claro, this is where we disagree. The real power in Service Design comes from identifying and addressing the customer’s invisible but very real behind the scenes actions, thoughts and feelings. We have a very particular approach to Service Design that combines a human-centred approach with rigorous business analysis. All solutions that we design are human-centric while being consistent with the business goals and brand values of the client. We fully believe that understanding people from the outset is the foundation to creating business value, and therefore is something we strive for when carrying out Service Design – we want to understand the actors and the lives they lead, both now and in the emerging future, which eventually leads them on a path to your product or service.  

This is why we believe that not paying enough attention to the ‘customer’s behind the scenes context is a misguided approach. No one customer is the same and individuals are inevitably influenced by what happens around them, therefore only considering how the individual interacts with the current service is simply not enough. Yes, we can create things like personas that show a wide array of people allowing us to target a specific group or design for a specific feature. Yet, to get a big picture view, one that will allow us to think holistically about how we can deliver a given service, we need to form a deeper understanding of the complexities of our customer base alongside the current political, economic, environmental, social or technological landscapes that affect their lives, perceptions, and evolving needs. 

By considering and understanding the keys effects these complexities have on the customer, we then begin to consider and balance the impact of our solutions on them via the different parts of the current and future services they will interact with. By doing this we can create truly human centred solutions that customers will WANT to use. If we ignore the details that make the customer ‘tick’, we risk having no customers at all.  

To summarise, projects that require a Service Design approach can become complex undertakings. However, at Claro we approach these types of projects with three clear principles:

1. Always move beyond looking at a project from a technological perspective. Try to focus in on the people; the humans who will both adopt it, use it, and hopefully love it, as well as those who will build it, deliver it and grow it. 

2. Do not just design for today. By looking at emerging global shifts and developing future scenarios, we can craft sound hypotheses based on how people manage the many ongoing changes in the world and how these changes will affect the services and products you develop. 

3. Lastly, Service Design is not a project, or a deliverable. Service Design is an effective methodology with a set of particular tools. To truly do justice and create (or improve) services and customer experiences, we need to take a more holistic view of the customer’s world

Do not believe the magic-bullet hype of journey maps and service maps by themselves – the output of these tools are only as good as their inputs.

Oct 05, 2018