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Posted by Kerry Bodine on January 3, 2011
Back in October, I traveled to Berlin and Cambridge, Mass., to attend the annual conferences of the Service Design Network, an international organization for professionals and academics working in the field of service design.
Um . . . What’s service design?
Great question! Service designers broadly define what they do as a collaborative process of researching, envisioning, and then orchestrating experiences that happen over time and across multiple touchpoints. Unlike traditional design disciplines, service designers typically examine — and often re-engineer — the strategy behind a service as well as the operational systems, processes, and resources that deliver it.
Um . . . Can you give me an example?
Sure! There are lots of examples in my latest report. But one story in particular stands out because it includes some very cool design solutions for a very unsexy industry: utilities. When the UK recently mandated that water billing switch from estimated to actual use, English utility company Southern Water faced a massive meter installation project. The company turned to service design agencies for help – and through several interrelated projects that spanned roughly 18 months, the Southern Water team explored how meter installation could be a positive experience and how consumer behavior toward saving water could be influenced.
In the end, they streamlined the rollout of 500,000 new water meters. (That’s about 400 new meters a day over a period of five years!) Here are some of the project highlights:
One of the most interesting things to me about service design is that it really shakes up corporate strategy. Case in point: The Southern Water meter project shifted the company's focus from the technical aspects of delivering water to the service experience. It gave the company a much better understanding of its customers and increased the number of considered touchpoints from two — the meter and the bill — to many — including the shower, toilet, kitchen faucet, and dishwasher.
Has your company engaged in a service design project like this? If so, I’d love to hear about it!