Service design often can get short shrift when a company is focusing on designing a product, but that’s a mistake if a business wants to succeed in today’s highly competitive marketplace, contends a new book, “Service Design for Business.”
Written by Ben Reason, Lavrans Lovlie and Melvin Brand Flu – all directors of Livework, a service design company – the book argues that service design is under-recognized and undervalued by businesses. The result is that companies are missing an opportunity to transform the customer experience into a more positive one and are at risk of disengaging customers.
The authors point out that companies can’t just focus on introducing new propositions and services to customers and expect the efforts to be successful. The planning must also include how the organization prepares and organizes itself internally to deliver that experience.
Part of that, Reason says, must include the right leadership. For example, Reason explains that he knows of two cases involving manufacturing companies seeking to develop new maintenance service offers and delivery. In one business, the CEO is leading the strategy to boost the service revenue. In the other, the effort is being led by the marketing director.
While both are making progress, the CEO-led project has been able to easily pull together the development teams (pricing, sales, IT and back office) and is able to deliver on the design, he explains.
“The other has had to socialize the design strategy across the same functions and win support by showing the value to each area,” he says. “It’s been slower and a lot more work has gone into the engagement and gathering of buy in. Now in delivery there is more risk of losing the vision because there is not a clear leader holding the pieces together. “
Of course, while the CEO can direct various departments to become more collaborative, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen without some pain and upheaval.
That’s why Reason says one of the first steps must be getting teams in the same room and asking them to focus on a business challenge.
“This may sound over simple, but the number of times I have heard ‘it’s great that we are all discussing this together’ is amazing,” he says. “Business doesn’t do this naturally as the silos are created for a reason (division of labor and specialization). “
But encouraging cross-functional collaboration and including even back-office teams can help organizations become stronger and eliminate the service practices that drive away customers, he says.
“Bringing the customer experience to the attention of these teams provides them with clarity about what they are really working to deliver and can cut through the internal silos,” he says.
For example, think of a time when you as a customer were forced to fill out reams of paperwork or go through a lengthy process just to complete a transaction. That’s the kind of experience that can turn off customers for good – and one that can be avoided if IT or the legal department understand how it is hurting the business.
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Reason says his work with a bank’s back office shows that asking such teams for their input on how to improve the customer experience can provide a big payoff.
“They became very creative and engaged and also started to see ways that they could improve their operations,” he says.
In the book, the authors provide suggestions for companies seeking to deliver better services through internal alignment and collaboration among various organizational functions. Among the ideas:
- Do the homework. A cross-functional team covering strategic, operational, management and frontline colleagues needs to research real customer experiences with video and testimonials backed up by hard behavioral data. This will help to establish a shared understanding.
- Target the desired performance. Be specific about the performances and outcomes that need to be achieved. Map the key organizational functions affected by the scenario and then systemically work through each area. Discuss how each role will be affected.
- Look at parallels. For example, by looking at marketing, sales, operations and legal, you will be able to see who is doing what, when they’re doing it and how it’s helping – or hurting – the desired customer experience. Use a whiteboard to create a shared view and focus. This is information that can be used later in a key requirement document.
The authors caution that it’s “unlikely that you establish either the perfect target customer experience or a clear picture of the organizational change requirements on first pass.” Instead, you will spend time “tweaking the target experience and challenging the organizational barriers,” they write.
But once the team has been brought together and shared in developing the scenario, “it will be much easier to work in smaller teams on specific tasks,” they write.