As consumers, our experience of products and environments is influenced heavily by the quality of the services that govern our interactions with them. Apple’s iPod, for example, has limited utility without the delivery of services through iTunes. Netflix is a successful service innovation that facilitates the distribution of entertainment media. It’s awareness of the experience of use (frustrations with browsing and late fees) led to innovations on the system’s front-end (user interface, selection queues) and back-end (distribution by mail from regional centres). Opening a direct, more intimate channel to consumers has also allowed Netflix to transition seamlessly to digital on-demand distribution.
The development of service design innovations can be a complex undertaking. Services mediate our experience of complex systems and the starting points for end-users tend to vary widely based on many factors (technical knowledge, experience with the system, awareness, attitudes toward privacy, etc.). Successful service design solutions require support for customisation, adaptation over time – even systemic responses to intentional workarounds and rule breaking.
In service design, the end-user often adopts the role of designer for his or herself. Successful
solutions provide a range of potential experience outcomes with the support and guidance that allow end-users to craft the best possible service experience. Failure to provide the experiential tools and cues to navigate a system successfully will engender frustration and push end-users to find alternative solutions.
Service design is ideally suited for the systems thinker and design integrator. The first step is to understand an existing system and to build a clear picture of the stakeholder and system dependencies that underlay the current delivery model.
Service designers look beyond the assumed wisdom of a system’s current structure and draw inspiration from a wider set of potential solution components, including product, environment, communications and distribution innovations.