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Service Design in Public Sector — A Human-Centered Approach

Celebrating Service Design Day with an Insightful Talk

“Do good – give back!”

This was the theme put forward by ‘Service Design Network’ to celebrate the Service Design Day (SDD) on May 31/June 1. Net Solutions joined hands with IxDA to celebrate this day by taking up a talk on Service Design in Digital Friday Meetup.

Abhay Vohra, program manager for experience design at Net Solutions and local leader IxDA, hosted the talk at Net Solutions Campus. The evening saw an enthusiastic crowd participate in engaging talks and discussions on Service Design, especially in its application for a Smart City.

Relationship between Goods and Services

Abhay started his talk by explaining the differences between goods and services. Traditionally, there was a clear distinction between goods and services. Goods are tangible and consumable like pens, shoes, or food. On the other hand, services are exchanges that are intangible and do not result in ownership—medical treatment, the postal service, or public transportation.

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We interact with these services over time and they manifest themselves and come across us as tangible touch-points.

Today, the distinction between goods and services is fluid. You can find many examples around you where service is being marketed as a product and vice versa. You can find many examples around you where service is being marketed as a product and vice versa.

There are products that are being delivered as services. He gave an example of automakers that are now delivering their products on a subscription-based model.

This a perfect example of how a product can be sold as a service.

What is Service Design?

Service Design is a human-centered method of design that combines elements of interaction design with strategic design to create service experiences.

Service Experience is made up of various touch-points: some of them could be human touch-points, while the other could be physical or digital touch-points.

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Abhay explained giving an example of Amazon.

  • Placing an order is a digital touch-point.
  • Confirmation of order through SMS or email is a digital touch-point.
  • A courier guy delivers the product. That’s a human touch-point.
  • The packaging the product come in is a physical touch-point.

The sum total of all these interactions gives rise to certain customer experience. Thus, the scope of customer experience (CX) is bigger than that of user experience (UX). It deals with the entire brand perception.

The scope of Service Design is much bigger than the customer experience. It not only considers customer experiences but also takes into consideration the “backstage” activities that are happening to create that customer experience, such as employee experience, and partner experience.

Service Design Vocabulary

Service Design professionals use a specific set of terms. To understand their speak, it is important to get acquainted with the vocabulary of Service Design. Terms that find frequent mention are:

  • Front Stage,
  • Back Stage,
  • Holistic,
  • Co-creation (When you design a service, your customers and partners need to be part of the process, For example, AirBNB.)
  • Human-Centered

Everybody watched this excellent video by Fjord that introduced these terms in the context of a Service Design workflow:

Tools of Service Design

In order to design and create a new service, it is important to first understand the current state of the customer experience. And for that various tools are required, few of them are as follows:

  • Co-Creation Workshops: This step basically helps in co-creating an experience with customers. Bring all the stakeholders and some customers under one roof and ideate with them, indulge them in activities like journey mapping to get the first-hand perspective of their experience across all touch-points.
  • Experience Prototyping: In a nutshell, this is a cycle of creating a prototype and getting feedback from customers.
  • Journey Map: A Customer Journey map is an overall story from an individual’s perspective of their relationship with an organization, service, product or brand, over time and across channels. Here is a video that explains that:

Application of Service Design in Chandigarh Smart City Initiative

Under the smart city initiative, Chandigarh Smart City Limited has published a Request for Proposal (RFP) for Engagement of Agency for Design, Build, Operate, Finance and Transfer Public Bike Sharing System in Chandigarh on PPP Mode. In the RFP, they have listed out the deliverable’s required for this project:

Abhay pointed out that while this list contains quite a few touch points, it still misses one important factor: human-centered design principals. He suggested that this type of project should only be done using a Service Design approach, following human-centered design principles. It is so because, in addition to delivering the assets, it is also important to understand:

  • Why will citizens of Chandigarh make use of this service?
  • How will they relate to bicycles?
  • How will they use bicycles to move around?

These questions can be answered only through a human-centered approach through which we will be getting insights that can be incorporated into the design of the service.

digital friday meetup - service design day

A Talk that Ended with Engaging Discussion

The audience went through examples of many other projects—healthcare, education, solid waste management, and traffic regulation—that could use a Service Design approach.

Giving an example of a service digital agency based in the UK, GDS, who are into Service Designs for various projects, Abhay explained the importance of this approach.

On being asked how these kinds of projects can be successful without using a human-centered or Service Design approach, various views came forward on the current methodologies being followed and how they compare with Service Design approach. However, one common concern that echoed in the session was how to educate key decision makers about Service Design methodology itself.

Abhay ended the conversation with a statement:

“Change will happen, it will happen slowly. But startups can start much earlier. Startups have to be innovative and innovation comes from a human-centered approach. And if startups adapt this methodology, a chain of change will kick-start.”

Brahmpreet Singh

About the Author

Brahmpreet is a seasoned Content Writer with expertise in blogging, writing creative and technical copy for direct response markets and promotional advertising for B2B and B2C industries. He has worked for industries like IT, Lifestyle, Retail, among others. Besides his technical background, he is a poet and lyricist by heart, and loves to connect with people through a dose of creativity and imagination.

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