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Want to Sell Service Design? Get a Trojan Horse

I’ve been a fan of service design since my introduction to it in grad school —and an active champion of the discipline since my initial involvement with the Service Design Network back in 2010. In fact, I’ve spent a significant amount effort over the past five years helping companies understand what service design is and how it can benefit their organisations. But it’s been a hard slog for two key reasons. People don’t know what ‘service’ is For cultural, social, and economic reasons that are beyond the scope of this article, the term ‘service’ is much more broadly used and understood across Europe than it is in the United States. When I speak with my U.S.-based clients, and even with my friends and family, they equate ‘service’ with one of two things. The first is the support organisation you call or visit when you need to resolve a problem with a company or product: ‘I had to call customer service to get the charge reversed’ or ‘I need to take my car in to the service department’. The second concept is limited to the interactions customers have with in-person employees in certain industries. When someone in the 12 Touchpoint 7-3

U.S. asks, ‘How was the service at the restaurant?’ they’re specifically asking about how friendly the wait staff was, how quickly the food came out, and perhaps how generous the waiter was with his pours of Chianti. They’re not referring to the food, drinks, décor, or cleanliness — and they’re certainly not thinking about the systems of people, processes, and technologies that enable the restaurant to serve customers every day. In short, there’s zero recognition that the entire restaurant is a service in and of itself. People are scared of ‘design’ Despite the best efforts of designers, educators, journalists, and industry analysts, the word ‘design’ still strikes fear in the hearts of business people around the globe. For many,

traumatic memories of junior-high school art class combine with distrust of anything not firmly rooted in spreadsheets or computer code — and they instantly reject any notion of design. In a meeting several weeks ago with a big tech client, I used the word ‘design’ with a group I had assumed to be familiar with design thinking concepts — but their sudden silence, blank stares, and crossed arms told me otherwise. I quickly backtracked and started talking about “understanding the real problem and prototyping solutions.” They nodded, and disaster was averted! The innovation team at a government agency I work with also met with strong resistance when introducing design methodologies to the organisation several years ago. It now uses the term ‘HCD’ when describing its approach to design projects — and cross-functional project team members go along for the ride, compliant with this new acronym and blissfully unaware that they’re practicing Human-Centered Design. The prevailing attitudes towards design in the business world are so rampant that a pair of co-authors I spoke to recently admitted that they consciously try to omit the word

Profile for Service Design Network

Touchpoint Vol. 7 No. 3 - Selling Service Design