• A New Tribe: Reflections on the Service Experience Conference 2013

    Are we entering a new era where close business and design collaboration just makes sense? Where designers speak business models and business folks speak storytelling and experience? For two days this past October, speakers from different industries and backgrounds came together to share their stories and perspective on service design and experience. They came from places like USAA, GE, AT&T, Philips Design, Gravity Tank, Airbnb, Groupon, the Mayo Clinic, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Forrester. Despite their differences, they spoke a common language, prompting speaker Tim Ogilvie, CEO of Peer Insight to say, “I feel as though all those people are my tribe.”

    He’s right. We found a new tribe.

    And what language are we speaking? Alignment. Transformation. Efficiency. Sustainability. Humanity. A mixture of design and business speak that when spoken under the umbrella of service design made sense.

    Service design brings a focus on people, design methods and tools, and creativity to the strategy, planning, design, and execution of service experiences. It focuses not just on the presentation layer of the service (i.e., customer experience) but also the staff experience and operations necessary to achieve it. Design fills a business capability gap, as Kirsty Hosea and Jon Judah of Booz Allen Hamilton pointed out during their talk. And service design solutions are made more impactful with a business perspective.

    Most of us don’t work this way.

    When Dave Gray kicked off the day with his opening keynote, he asked the audience to stand up. We did. He told us to sit down if we having been doing service design for less than a year. More than half of the audience sat. Two years? Many more sat. Five years? A dozen or so were still standing. I was one of them. More than 10 years? I sat. “I didn’t know there was such a thing as service design,” said one of those still standing. “I thought this was just work.”

    Services surround us. We design and shape them all the time. But most of us don’t think about it as design and we miss the opportunity to intentionally shape services and systems the way we want them to be. We do the work of service design without a common framework for how we all contribute to the production of what makes services and systems great or a failure.

    Presenter Melanie Huggins is not a designer. But she’s bringing design into her work as the executive director of the Richland Library in Columbia, South Carolina. In one of the most passionate talks of the conference, she told the audience how she got her staff to understand the value of paying attention to the patron experience, from the trash in the parking lot to checking out books to the feeling of the bathroom. Why? Libraries have no product. A service design approach offered her a way to not only meet the needs of her patrons and staff but also be innovative and relevant in the modern world. She didn’t need to be a designer to understand that.

    Tim Ogilvie and his colleague Jessica Dugan, a senior design consultant at Peer Insight, shared a business modeling tool they created to allow designers to use the skills they already have — visualization, prototyping, co-creation, and iteration — to ensure their solutions are not just innovative but market ready. With each speaker, the lines between business and design became more blurred. By the end, we were one.

    This is only the beginning. We are excited about this first step, but there’s much more to do. To achieve great services and experiences we need to expand the tribe. For our part, we will continue to bring this new community together — we’re planning the second Service Experience Conference for the fall of 2014. Join the tribe!

     

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