Aiming Before You Fire – Patiently Seeking Input to Guide Service Design

service design, experience design

Recently I wrote a blog in which I offered my definition of experience design. From my vantage point, experience design is one of the core competencies of human-centric organizations along with human-centric culture, customer listening/understanding, effective change management, and productive use of customer-focused metrics.

I am sure I will be addressing all of those topics in future blogs but reflecting back on my recent blog, I defined experience design as:

a range of disciplines which guide the creation of processes, products, services, and events optimized to produce quality interactions/moments/memories.

The Discipline of Service Design

In this installment, I’m taking a deeper dive into a specific domain of experience design, namely service design.

As a consultant, I am often tasked with helping leaders envision and create service delivery that is relevant to the changing needs of their core customer segments. By contrast, I am not typically involved in crafting new products that will appeal to consumers (that is usually left to product design consultants and internal product design teams).

Given my work, let’s look at what is needed to craft service experiences (influenced by people, process, and technology) that will engage customers, increase consumer spend, fuel loyalty, and drive referrals.

The biggest mistake I see leaders making when it comes to designing service experiences is “shooting before they aim.” It takes patience to gather necessary inputs before launching into design fixes.

The first step in that journey of patience is deciding for whom you wish to design. 

For example, let’s assume you have four core customer segments (each group differs significantly from the others when it comes to demographics, values, ambitions, fears, and lifestyle needs). It will likely be impossible to design a service experience that is optimized for all of those segments.

Based on business goals and strategy, decisions are often required to focus on one or two of those segments as a starting point for design. Future efforts can expand to address the needs of other segments based on business priorities.

Tireless and Immersive Inquiry

Once a decision has been made as to the prioritized target segment, the tireless and immersive work of understanding that segment begins.

Understanding typically comes from a range of inputs such as general industry trends, direct and indirect subjective and objective feedback from that segment (call center analytics, findings from customer surveys, social media tracking, etc.) and from quantitative and qualitative customer segment research (e.g., focus groups, customer interviews, direct observation, diary studies, etc.).

The immersive nature of this work requires the passion of a cultural anthropologist who embeds him or herself into a remote tribe of people to understand their habits, mores, folkways, attitudes and social order. The tireless nature of this work involves the understanding that most of the data you collect on customer segments is time-bound.

For example, focus group insights need to be refreshed as social, technology, business, and geopolitical factors are perpetually reshaping the perceptions and expectations of consumers.

From Research to Visioning

Once you feel you have sufficient understanding of your target segment, great service design companies share that knowledge with cross-functional teams from across the organization enabling those teams to be immersed into the demographics and psychographics of customer segments and charging them with the responsibility of looking for ways to build a service experience that meets their existing and evolving needs.

That new experience will likely involve removal of current elements of the existing experience, elevating key elements of the current experience (through process improvement, human service delivery, and the aid of emerging technologies) and in some cases, it will require dramatically shifting the service model.

This phase of service design typically requires an understanding of the journey of this customer segment as they research, purchase, receive service and maintain a relationship with brands like yours.

In our next post, we will talk both about the how and why of persona-based customer journey mapping and a process I refer to as optimal future customer experience road mapping.

For now, I encourage you to assess whether you have prioritized the customer segments for which you wish to optimize service experiences.

That prioritization should be guided by business strategy and the role various segments play in your present and future.

Assuming you have identified a high priority segment, how immersed are you in understanding them? Also, how current is the information on which you are relying?

Time to Talk

I am glad to help you explore your customer segment selection and your customer segment research.  For a complimentary conversation, please contact us and we’ll talk soon.

Smoke over black background

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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