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Gordon Young
Editor-in-chief at The Drum

How to transition to Service Design thinking

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Top tips on how to successfully transition into Service Design

Making the transition from an insular user experience focus to that of a wider arching service focus can be tough but hugely rewarding. During the past year, the team at Rawnet have been going through this transition to Service Design (SD) and we want to share the invaluable lessons we have learnt and advice we have taken onboard.

1. Start with your users

I know you’ve read this a thousand times, but it’s still true. Get your business context and stakeholder insights together, but bulk load your research and testing plan with users. Remember though – a user isn’t just a customer, but the company workforce too. A happy employee equals a happy customer.

2. Work visually

Visual language is a thousand times more powerful for a consistent understanding with context. It’s much easier to align people with imagery, diagrams, audio and video than with words alone.

3. Co-work

You are not going to have all the answers, and you shouldn’t be expected to. Whenever you are working, try and work with others. You cover ground faster, learn more, make more contacts and gain more empathy for the cause.

4. Provide context

You can never know too much, so talk about the service you are representing to anyone that will listen to you. Their opinions may provide you with future discussion points. It also supports a productive co-working environment too and gives you a more robust justification when making or validating decisions.

5. Don’t start at the end

Creating the final service at the beginning never works. Take small steps that can be balanced with commercial expectation and pace. Understand, ideate, validate and make sure you can justify all features back to your research. Check off users, values and objectives in that justification and you won’t go too far wrong.

6. Learn and adapt as you go

You will never learn more than when you release an iteration of the service to its intended audience. It will keep you on the straight and narrow. A wise man in the 1995 classic movie Under Siege 2 once said: “Assumption is the mother of all fuckups.” Ignore this high brow theory in the world of SD and you will end up in a world of trouble. Don’t be afraid to adapt, it’s ok to be wrong.

7. Welcome ambivalence

Opinions – everyone has one right? Meh! In SD, opinions mean we may need to change direction. However, learning to accept opinions and change in a positive manner is one of the most important SD mindsets to adopt. Becoming too attached to the service and trying to justify every decision made means you will inhibit project progression. Users do not think like you and they don’t want the same things.

8. Measure and justify value

SD is a tough sell, just like UX was five years ago. Adding value to a service does not come cheap and a business paying for your consultancy on a hefty day rate are having to justify your value at every point. If key stakeholders haven’t joined you for the ride they will not always appreciate the time and effort that has gone into the research and design.

From the beginning, work out the service objectives and how they can be measured, and always make sure you have the company mission and values defined. Being able to show the effect you are having on both of these is paramount to demonstrating your value. This will also provide a solid case study for you to refer to next time round.

9. Catalyse trust

Trust is the key component to any relationship, and relationships build a great service. Not just the alliance between yourself and the client, but among all members of the service interaction. Don’t mess people around, keep your promises and stay transparent. With a tough sell like SD, if the trust goes, progress will either stop or become painfully slow. With trust comes effective velocity.

10. Have fun

Lastly, practice what you preach (to some extent). Yes, we are here to deliver results, but enjoy the process as best you can from start to finish, it’s not going to be a short journey. A happy service designer equates to a successful process.

Remember, we don’t have to search fearfully for disruptive solutions. There is plenty of room for positive growth within non-disruptive creation.

(PS I don’t really think Under Siege 2 is a classic.)

Sam Evans is strategy and experience director at Rawnet

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