The number of digital services that we have to deal with has exploded. They are provided through a range of different marketing channels and across various technical platforms, and we order everything from cinema tickets and new summer clothes to travel cards and holidays. Even public services have gone digital, and this year a million Norwegians submitted their tax return online.
But across this plethora of services, steps are not always in a logical sequence, and our encounters with service providers can sometimes result in odd customer experiences. For example, when the coffee machine needs servicing, first of all you have to contact someone, then arrange for it to be collected, which involves shipping; you receive a confirmation, order status and tracking information by SMS and e-mail from the manufacturer and logistics department; then you have to log in to internet banking when you get an invoice, etc. Or you book a flight online, and everything from check-in to choosing a seat takes places in a fragmented dialogue by SMS and e-mail. The repeated interactions between customer and provider must be logical and provide a good experience.
Companies are often organized in silos. And they might be suffering from “silo-itis” – when everyone involved in the service offering belongs to a separate part of the organization like an internet department, a customer service center – and different staff writing letters or texts that the company sends. If there is little cooperation between the departments (and their IT-systems) it is difficult to get the full picture of the service as it is experienced by the customers.
Service design is a new speciality that focuses on a more coordinated, customer-oriented way of developing services. Service design can be invaluable during the ideas and concept phase, but does not have a systematic format for describing how to turn the objectives of a service into reality.
The visual language on which this project is focusing consists of diagrams and symbols. It starts by looking at the points of contact between customer and service provider, and produces a graphic description of sequences and time flow. The aim is to simplify communication between designers, decision-makers, product owners, technologists and everyone involved in developing the service.
During the first phase of the project, the researchers have begun defining what words will be used to serve as a central terminology and define sequences and outcomes during interactions between customer and provider, when things should happen, parties that are involved, etc.
They are also developing the virtual ‘service models’ and scenarios that will be able to detect subtleties within the customer experience in situations such as online shopping and booking flights or a care service. The service models will be used for training, but also as an aid to developing and evaluating the language.