Practical Service Design
Even though service design is starting to gain real traction in organizations large and small, it’s still not as widely known outside of the design community as related design disciplines such as user experience, or customer experience design. Because service design in its current form is so new (at least in North America!) it can be hard to understand, what service design looks like and how it’s practiced in organizations today.
To get a view into service design in real life, we chatted with Megan Miller and Erik Flowers, two service designers leading internal teams and working with many stakeholder groups in large organizations. Megan is the Senior Service Designer at Stanford University’s IT department, and Erik is the Principal Service Experience Designer at Intuit.
Anita Sedgwick: Hello everyone, and welcome to another live chat, hosted by Usability Matters. Today’s chat will be filled with helpful information on service design, what people are doing out there in the real world. I’m really excited to have Erik Flowers, and Megan Miller, as well as Shannah Segal, with us today. I’m going to hand the mic over to the three panelists, as they introduce themselves, and Shannah will start asking a handful of questions. And of course all of you that are out there listening in, don’t hesitate to use the panel on your right-hand side to type in any questions. We will continue to keep a pulse on those, and ask those as they come through. Erik do you mind giving us a quick intro?
Erik Flowers: Sure. My name is Erik Flowers, and I am Principal Service Designer at Intuit, the company that makes QuickBooks, and TurboTax and Mint. I’ve been a service designer there for a little over two years. We’re in Mountain View, California, which is the heart of Silicon Valley, and I am the first service designer they hired. And there is another service designer that’s been there for about a year now, and we are the two trying to spread this practice and capability throughout the company.
Anita: Awesome. Megan do you mind giving us an intro?
Megan Miller: Yeah. So hi, I’m Megan Miller. I’m Senior Service Designer at University IT at Stanford University, and I started this role about eight months ago. And it’s a new function, so we’re a new team that’s living inside the heart of the business, in IT. So we’re trying to bring design and service design into how we design our IT services for campus. And we have over 250 services that we offer out to campus, and we’re serving students, faculty, staff all across the university, about 30,000 people in total. So, it’s quite an interesting environment to be working in, and an interesting one to be bringing service design, and being the first to introduce that concept to the organization.
Shannah Segal: That’s great, and I’m Shannah. So, I’ll jump in here. I’m one of the founders of Usability Matters. And so welcome to the web chat, I’m so glad that you’re both able to be with us here today. I would like to start off by just asking you a few questions about your roles, if you don’t mind. Not too much about the nitty-gritty ’cause we’ll get into that. But essentially, as service designers, and those with an official title of service design, which is great to see, what do you see would be the focus of your roles within the organization, specifically as it comes to service design? Megan, maybe we can start with you.
Megan: The focus of my role regarding service design, okay. Well, when you think about the sheer magnitude of how many services I’m trying to bring service design to, and our organization… It’s not huge as organizations go, we have about 500 people. But when you’re talking about 60, 70 different service owners managing about 250 services, the focus of the role really is about scale, and really driven also by organizational priority. So, there’s only one of me, and there’s three people on my team, but I’m the only one with this design background, and I’m trying to educate and level up my team as we go. So finding opportunities to dig in and do service design work on a particular work service experience, it’s hard, because we have to balance providing resources to the whole organization. So part of the challenge of my role and where I’m at, is how do we scale service design and build capability across the organization? And this organization is one that really doesn’t have very much design maturity. So, the role is very fundamental, introducing design in general, design concepts, and also showing the value of how service design as an approach can help, and then enabling teams to try to do that themselves. So, a lot of what I do is presentation, at outreach, at workshops.
I’m hoping to be lining up more type training and education type events, where I help teams learn how to do different activities, and evangelism, of what service design can bring to the table. So that’s been my role. I’m only… Like I said, we’re only eight months into this big journey. And we’ve had a few projects under our belts so far, but really the role has been about introducing design to the organization.
Shannah: And just before we jump to Erik. So you mentioned you offer, I think, you said, 60 or 70 services out. Could you give us just an example of what you mean when you say, “We have 60 services?”
Megan: Yeah. We have 250 services, and we have about 60 or 70 service owners. These are the people who manage and run all those services. And they’re IT services. It’s everything from the Internet to mobile devices. Now I got a new laptop, I wanna new phone, to paging to the hospitals, to TV and landlines, out to the dorms, meal card balance systems and tracking, all of the core technology systems for the university. So if you think about course access and some of those core fundamental systems at a university. It’s a lot, it’s a lot of technology systems, and services, and tools that are out there. I think the big challenge is that it’s a technology mindset in IT, even though IT services, its still a mindset of technology first, not service first. So there’s a lot of educating around what is a service, and what do we mean when we talk about service? And what does a fully formed, fully designed service look like?
Shannah: Great. And Erik now, just over to you. So what is the focus of your role? You’ve been there for a bit longer than Megan has.
Erik: Yeah, so my role is essentially to work in a very mature digital software product company, that’s had decades of experience producing products, the things that you buy and use on computer, and evolves to now being online, in the cloud. And we call it software as a service, which essentially just means software that you pay monthly to access, but you don’t actually own any of it. And with that, all the things now we offer, it’s a mix between products and services and intangible in-between things, but the core capabilities of the company was to design software, that up until… Well, it’s still put in boxes and put on shelves at Staples, and Best Buy, and OfficeMax, or whatever. But now that we’re an ecosystem of a much connected services, then we wanna be across all sorts of different channels, all sorts of different geographies. It’s much more. We’re offering big services that you can use to run your business, or do your taxes, or manage your finances. And we just happened to create touch points, that can be mixed and matched and put together along the way. So you could be a free Mint user, who also has a small business, who also is using QuickBooks, and then also use TurboTax for your yearly, tax filing.
Erik: What was missing, was an end-to-end horizontal design mindset of, “We’re really good at designing these products, and we’ve got a long history of creating these things called TurboTax, called Mint, called QuickBooks and Quicken, but we don’t have any horizontal design layer saying, “Well what are the customer scenarios that happen across channels and across products, that were not organizationally constructed, in a way to look at things across breadth? We’re really good at depth.” The product managers and developers and designers work on their thing and they own it, and they’re successful at that. And so my focus is doing what I can, as one resource, to stitch together customer experiences that aren’t necessarily designed from the get go, that happen organically. And now we look back at it and say, “Billing and subscription, is a huge part of being a customer of a company that charges you monthly.” That’s not really a product. You don’t sit down and say, “Okay, let’s sit and design just like we would, the most killer mobile app, a subscription process.” That just happens, it’s pieced together. You add a billing system, someone adds a signup page, another team adds the emails you get confirming your purchase.
But that was never sat down and said, “Okay, let’s turn that into something tangible, and say, “This is the experience of being in a subscription relationship with us.” Well, the service design toolkit, now at Intuit, is to take those and say, “No, let’s do design those. Let’s apply design thinking, let’s apply our resources to big intangible, silo-to-silo, channel-to-channel, product-to-product experiences, and say, “Okay, that thing that wasn’t a thing before, now it’s a thing. And let’s put a service manager, or a service designer, or a design strategist on that.” And now, we do actually have one of our first design strategist that owns an intangible concept, called billing and subscription. And so that’s kind of I’m focused and applying it at Intuit, which is being a horizontal… A layer that crosses a whole bunch of stuff.
Shannah: So this is probably a good segue into some questions that we’re getting from our audience. Several of our folks are coming from a user experience background, and I think they’re more used to dealing with that touch-point focused approach. We have some questions around how a person determines, in a service design capacity, whether it’s best to use traditional, and I say traditional with a smile, because it hasn’t been that long that user experience has been considered traditional. But traditional user experience practices and tools and techniques, or service design practices, when you’re working on a project or an experience? Erik, maybe I can start with you, and then move onto Megan.
Erik: Design thinking is a mental soft skill, a way of working and acting that you apply to user experience of interactions, and interfaces on a screen, or a phone, or industrial design. But you can apply design thinking to software development being a programmer, being someone who works in business and finance. And Intuit is really mature when it comes to design thinking. As far as the traditional approach of UX methods, that are used for those touch-points, and you apply design thinking to more tangible on the screen type things, we call that user experience design. When looking at service design, a lot of the thinking and the emotion of feeling you have when you do it is the same, but you’re really looking at systems, and relationships and the interaction between external customer experiences and internal experience of your employees, and the people that are performing or providing the things that become the service. And so it’s a context shift of, “I’m gonna take my design thinking personality.” But the ways I would research users, for let’s say QuickBooks online, our main product, it’s gonna be different when how I’m researching users as I’m approaching it from a more end-to-end service perspective, where I can’t really A/B test somebody’s first six months of getting a bill this certain way, or getting a bill this other way.
It’s a whole lot more… It’s higher level, not that it’s more important, but it’s much more macro. And so some tools from… And we have a lot of user experience designers. I work, just in my group, with probably a 120. But you can’t just take the exact hard skills and apply them at a higher level, you kinda have to say, “This is how we weld oil rigs together, out on the Texas deserts.” But then you also weld oil rigs down at the bottom of an ocean, underwater, and it is welding, and it is oil, but it’s really a different context and a different elevation, that you’re doing it at. Traditional UX methods, if you picked up UX 101, you get a lot of soft skills and ideas. But when you go to start designing big systems, and big services and things that are very interconnected, and horizontal, you start to have to go, “Well, how do I apply this type of design work to internal organization capability building?”, which is a huge part of service design. And you can work on user experience of hardware or software products that people see on the screen or hold in their hands, that doesn’t really give you a lot of information on, “Okay, so how do I apply design thinking to my siloed organization, and how to I start to design how we work?”
Shannah: Right. So Megan, I see you’re nodding as Erik’s talking. How about you? And you mentioned that you might be a little bit on a different place in this sort of design maturity level at you organization.
Megan: Yeah, well this is a good question. Actually, the talk that I’m giving next week at Evolve UX conference, in San Francisco exactly on this, how do you scale up, how do you make a leap from user experience to service design? That’s been my journey, and I come from a user experience, web design background. And it was a big leap to understand that conceptually, I have all these tool and skills and mindset, but I have to reframe them, into this other context. So let’s take a wire-frame, for example. Wire-frames are bread and butter UX design. You’re sketching out what you think the future state will look like. If you take that function, I’m visualizing the future state, how do you now visualize the future state of an end-to-end experience over time, crossing multiple touch-points? So the tool can look different, but they’re doing the same thing. They’re helping envision the future, they’re helping you investigate, through research. Your research methods might be different, because you’re not, like Erik said, you’re not A/B testing, you’re maybe doing contextual inquiry, or you’re doing other observational, or participatory research. The methods change because of the context you’re in, but the frame of mind and the reason you’re doing those things, I think stays the same.
Whether you’re investigating, you’re remediating a problem, a broken experience or a user pain at a certain point, or whether you’re trying to imagine the future, and to find that reality. I think the big, the big shift in… So the original question was, how do I know when to use what tool? And that has to do with the scale at which you’re operating. If you’re really looking at a single touch-point, like a website or a marketing campaign, or a mobile app or some sort of interface about that, your traditional UX toolkit will probably apply. But if you’re looking at an experience that stands multiple channels and multiple touch-points, then you really should look at adopting some of that service design toolkit. And that could look like customer journey mapping, to understand the experience that people are having over time. It could look like service blue printing, which is actually taking that journey and then digging into, how your organization is delivering that journey, over those different steps of the scenario? Or you could do touch-point mapping, ecosystem mapping. But basically, you’re trying to visualize and express the current state and the future state of the design of the experience. I really think it’s get to the heart what is your tool doing for you? And that heart of it, is what you can translate up and scale to that different context.
Shannah: I can imagine when you’re introducing these new tools and methods, that it forces people to work and think in different ways. One of our viewers poses the question, “Can you discuss some of the cultural changes, and impact on some of the frontline team, and the leadership of your organizations?” Megan, why don’t we start with you?
Megan: That’s fair since that’s the kind of work I’m dealing with. So, like I mentioned, I have about 500 people in my organization. I am now one of four people that has the word “Design” in their title, and I’m the only one with actually a background in design. And it’s an interesting space to work in, because you have to really learn how to speak the language of your culture and your business, and the people that you’re working with. And I moved from the Web Services team into this part of the business. I’m in a Service Management office. Then my neighbours are Finance, Ordering and Billing, Business Process Improvement. This is who I sit with in my hallway. And, when I come out my door I’m like, “Design, design thinking experiences, customer pain,” nobody understands what I’m talking about. The first three months of my job, I spent really trying to listen and understand the culture of where I was at in my organization, and how to translate what I’m trying to do, and the value that I’m trying to frame. It’s been a big trial and error. You could meet someone in the hallway, like, “Oh what do you do, what’s this whole thing about Service Design? What’s Service Design?” I get that everyday, every single day.
And so being able to explain the elevator pitch and talk about the value that it can bring to the business, and not use the designer language, is a constant battle. And so as far as cultural change, what I’ve seen in just the short period of time that I’ve been working on this in my organization, is there are people who are becoming really interested and engaged. And they don’t know what it is yet, but they want to learn more, and they’re eager, and they’re hungry. And they become my army of advocates, and allies, and supporters, and potential partners. And as that group grows and as I start laying down projects, and telling stories of success, you start to hear people talk about it. I had a meeting earlier this week, where a team wants me to come do a day-long workshop with them, to teach them some things. I’m like, “Great, awesome.” And they were like, “Yeah I heard you did something really great with the information security office, and we want that.” They don’t know what it is yet, and nobody knows what it is. Everyone is like, “Oh, service design sounds really cool, it’s really cool, it’s great.” We’re still at a point where… So I’m starting to see the culture shift and that people are willing to start to use the language, and start to make space for it to happen, but nobody really gets it yet. And I think what it’s gonna to take is just more hands on doing, in partnership with other people.
So I’m really focused on trying to find opportunities to do things, because the more you can bring people along with you and have them do, and make, and experience it themselves, the more it’s gonna kinda latch on. I’ve already seen people come to me and say, “I just got promoted to this new role, I really wanna bring this service design focus. Teach me, what does it mean? How do I do that?” And that’s a really great space to be in, because we have to find those people who are eager and willing to learn, they’re our perfect partners to plant the seeds in the culture. And it’ll just spread virally, based on the stories that we end up with after we complete projects, or change peoples way of thinking, and it’s one person at a time.
Shannah: Good. Erik how about you, has the shift already happened and everyone’s completely onboard, or is there still work to be done in that respect?
Erik: The idea of how I describe end-to-end, when you say the word, “end-to-end,” and everyone’s onboard. And so trying to describe what does end-to-end design look at, typically it’s understood as looking at a work flow, end-to-end, inside a product or inside a certain concept like; someone wants to sign up, create an account, login for the first time, see the introduction tutorial dashboard, and then start using it. That’s an end-to-end work flow. But what I’m trying to say is the end-to-end is more about working end-to-end across teams that don’t really work together, other than the sense that there’s a director or a vice president that’s over the group, but then each team has their own charter, and their own road map, and their own mandates. And so, as I’m starting to talk about what I’m trying to do with service design, and how I’m trying to work truly end-to-end, so that our internal organization can represent what the customers think their experiencing on the outside, that’s where it’s a little harder to get people together and say “We need to form more of a chain, we need to stitch together who we are internally.” ‘Cause stitching together stuff, externally, through the user experience, is a lot more common in a lot of companies that offer different context and channels are doing that.
And multi-channel, multi-content design is common, but internally that’s not common. And usually things like pattern libraries and design systems help it, so that everything looks and feels the same. What I find is when I start bringing up service design, getting together and doing more service blueprinting, and mapping across silos with teams that haven’t really worked together before, but we’re gonna diagnose, and plan things, and look for root cause of customer pain together. The hurdle is that everyone is already busy, and everyone’s job, and everyone’s role is already full. And so introducing service design is something you think about while you work, you try to incorporate. It’s okay as an idea, but the workflow of digital product design, the design of digital things that are interpreted as services, like payroll service, where Intuit QuickBooks can do payroll for you, instead of you having to do it on your own. That’s kind of a service, but really it’s a product with a bunch of interfaces that then does something automatically. And so service design is this new cool thing. It makes a lot of sense, but how do you actually do it? How do you implement it? Do you hire a bunch of service designers? Do you add them to teams?
Do you add them to four teams that are all kind of related, and they’re the glue and the bridge that keeps things put together? It’s hard to find out… Or it’s hard to find where it fits. Megan is in a place that is truly a service organization, where if you were working for transportation, or hospitality, or retail, or restaurants or whatever, those are services. It’s very clear how you are entering into a contract with someone, where you say “I’m gonna do this for you, I’m gonna perform or provide a bunch of service. And then once it’s done and over, the contract is fulfilled, I’ve assumed all the risk of providing the service. You are just paying me to do it. And if you don’t like it, you can leave.” That is not what software was. We wanna become the kind of company that is like that, where we just happen to help you do taxes or run your business or accounting. But really, we’re a service provider that has touch points. And that’s where the lift is. That’s where it’s like “Oh, wow, that’s a fundamental business model shift. And that’s an internal capability shift. Those muscles, geez, we haven’t even thought about working those muscles, but we love the idea. And so we need one or two people in a company of 10,000, to start working those muscles.
Shannah: Right. So are you one of the one or two right now?
Erik: Yes, I’m the one, and then there’s another two.
Shannah: Okay, so organizationally it’s a small group. And do you, as the service design team, work together, or are you parcelled out to various other parts of the organization?
Erik: Well, right now as it is, it’s much more of a roving consultancy, an internal resource, that goes to something that’s really critical. Intuit is a big company, and we deal with numbers as our product, and we also have numbers internally about what’s our biggest customer pains? What’s our biggest internal pains? And apply service design to these large things and trying to cover a lot of pains for external customers and internal stakeholders, all at once. It’s really more of a rove-around to try to find what’s the next thing that needs address, that could be kicked off? We can synchronize the teams that work in the silos. And I mean silos in a good way. They’re focused on their features, their product, their thing they have to deliver. And then once we’ve come up with end-to-end, surface-to-core solutions, now, everyone’s kind of working in sync like they were before, except we have better inputs, more connected inputs. So hopefully our outputs from those efforts are more connected. And then I will go and work on something else for a while.
And so it’s a roving model, just because sticking one person with a new business model in one project, that would be like having a software company with 10 different products; you hire one designer 15 years ago, and say “Well just work on this one thing, but we’re not gonna apply this to the rest of the company.” So everything else is gonna be hard to use, and gray, and boxy. But this one little slice, it’s gonna be UX’d to death. That doesn’t work, we need to go horizontal even if it’s really thin right now, to elevate and hide the seams externally. And hiding the seams externally to customers, means stitching things together, in various ways internally.
Megan: It’s kinda of a hard part with people trying to make this leap to service design, and that’s where I was a year ago. Because I was sitting in this one service, out of our 250 services, and I was trying to start to practice service design, because we have a service. But 9 out of 10 of the components that actually go towards the delivery of that service and the experiences that service, weren’t controlled by our group. So it was very hard for me to do this end-to-end work on our experience, when the help support team isn’t part of my group. The team that creates the servers and conduct the outage orders and whatever, isn’t part of my group. All of these pieces of the service that I was part of, I had no access to, and really didn’t have a lot of opportunity to effect change. So the reason that I pushed for this new function, living in the heart of the business, was because I knew I needed that access, and that horizontal reach. And I think this is a big shift that companies are gonna need to take, as we want to apply more end-to-end experience design to our customers’ experience, that we need to have designed and positioned more strategically in the company, and have access both to the leadership, the level that’s managing all of the different products, and also down into the different silos.
And so this is a major shift, and we’re not seeing a lot of organizations out here, getting that yet. And when you’re looking… If you’re trying to move into service design, you’re looking for job postings, you’re not gonna find them. There’s very few postings, at least here in the US. There’s very few opportunities, because people haven’t really made space for service design to happen yet. And so we need people who are gonna be advocates, and pioneers of this new wave of designing, to help make that space.
Shannah: So we’ve talked about service design, end to end and conceptually, and somewhat high-level, because it is that kind of a practice. Some of our viewers are wondering if we can zoom right down to a tactical level. What are the actual tools that you folks are using in your day-to-day work? Maybe you could speak a little bit about some of the software, some of the materials. We might be surprised to find out what they actually are. Megan, did you wanna jump in?
Megan: I’ll start. So yeah, my number one tool is a marker and a piece of paper. Actually, it’s my tablet and Photoshop, Because drawing pictures is the number one way I’ve been able to communicate any of this. And maybe that’s just me, in the way I like to express myself. Because a lot of the work I’m doing is workshop-driven with a group, I’m doing a lot of facilitation, and designing of workshop activities. For example, I led a series of three workshops with the information security office, to help redefine what they offer as security as a service. Not security as a mandate, or security as a protection, or security services as a tool, but security as a service provided to the university. And so we did all sorts of activities, such as persona development, we mapped out scenarios, and we did lightweight blueprinting, of those scenarios. And I created a worksheet template, we did that on paper on the wall.
Shannah: So it was all sticky notes on whiteboards, essentially?
Megan: Mostly that’s what I’m working with because, like I said, the organizations are so new, that there’s no formalized function, yet, there’s no formalized methods yet. And so we’re defining those as we go. I create a lot of worksheet templates. For example, I have a template that I’ve created that’s about defining service value. And I’ve got a mad lib, that you fill out this template. And how do you… Prompting people to think in this way, because they’ve never thought in this way before at all. You have to give them templates and tangible items. ‘Cause the scenario mapping we did, I have this little… It’s a little template like this. That you stack like this, and it has a storyboard, and like “What’s your customer emotion?” and “What are they doing?” I’ve created a lot of the materials that I use. But the idea is really a mix kind of language definition, like how do you define a service, and defining the value of your service? But everything from stakeholder mapping, to the blueprinting, the journey mapping, the different scenario story-boarding. That’s a lot of the different tools I’ve been leaning on.
And then there’s this whole other side of it, which because my organization has no customer data at all, I’m bringing in this new… New to my organization, practice of actually doing research. A few of the projects I’ve lead, have actually been design research projects. And those methods you may already be familiar with, whether that’s running surveys, or testing, or interviewing customers.
Shannah: Erik, how about you, are you using anything particularly in your organization? Maybe there is some piece of design software that the rest of us haven’t heard of yet, service design stuff? [chuckle]
Erik: You probably have heard of the software. One of the things about most of my work, it has to do… We have a very big customer, voice of the customer data organization. We capture things, from end to end, listening posts all over the place. And so a lot of my work is about root cause diagnosis intermediation, and so service blueprinting has been really my main, most sharpest tool, to kinda hack through the jungle. And so it started out as kinda Post-It notes, and we started using the service blueprint formats that we’d see in the books and on the internet. But it didn’t quite solve our problem, for a lot of reasons, that me and Megan have written about on our blog and e-book and whatnot. And so I kinda took the analog approach, and converted it into OmniGraffle, which is the Mac boxes, and diagrams, and lining stuff up in a grid. It’s a design tool, but it’s kinda more of a visualization of information tool. And used that for the last couple of years to build these service blueprints, and build these end-to-end maps. People have tried to use Illustrator, or Sketch, or Excel, or whatever. But essentially, what we just need is a big grid, that spans time across the top and depth of detail across, top to bottom, for the other XY axis. It’s something that you can use any type of tool.
If you look at the format and go, “Okay, I need to be able to do this. OmniGraffle is pretty simple. But just recently, I’ve started using something called Mural, which is an online Post It Note, whiteboard tool, that people can collaborate with, interactively, all at the same time. So multiple people can be dragging the Post Its and what not. That’s been really helpful for the mapping, because the maps can get quite detailed. And doing it with Post It Notes on a board, you end up with these maps that are 15 feet long, three or four feet tall, that you can’t really move and do anything with. The online tools… And I would recommend, if people want to look at what we’re calling the Practical Service Blueprint, which is my main tool, and that’s what everyone at Intuit wants to be doing, because it’s so ultra effective at solving business problems through design. Mural’s been the best collaborative way to do it. Tried doing in in Google Draw, which is similar, but it’s way, way free form. The hands on tools… We make documents, we make lists. It’s just general business communications through Google Docs or Office, but the actual service design tools are all about, they’re good for mapping.
Megan: I use Google things all day, Google Draw. It’s funny, going from a Visual and UX and web background, to now my primary tool is Google Draw.
Erik: Yeah, It’s way low fi, service design doesn’t require glossy things. You’re designing systems, and you’re creating data visualization of your company’s capability for certain scenarios, and the highs and the lows, not of the customer’s emotional experience, but the highs and the lows of, how capable are you of delivering what you promised, at each instance, across this journey? And if I’m an airline, and I say “We have a great experience,” but we have a real terrible experience with getting your bags, it’s like, “We are very bad at delivering our promise of a great airline experience, when it comes to baggage handling.” And that’s what these visualizations of your blueprints, of your company’s capability, illustrate. So the special tools, it’s so not special, other than needing something to do quick mapping. It’s not like design, where “Oh, I need Invision, and I need Axure, and I need this new thing that syncs them together. And I’m gonna use this design library. And I’m gonna be using Photoshop, and Sketch, and Fireworks. It’s so conceptual. Just anything that can paint big data pictures, is really what it comes down to.
Shannah: I think one question that people might be curious about is, is it working? You’ve started to bring service design into your places of work, it’s been some time. How’s it going? Are people buying in? Have you been able to have some tangible results from the work that you’ve done?
Erik: I’ve been doing it at Intuit for a lot longer than Megan’s had the chance to do it at Stanford. So I have seen… And plus, we started right with diagnosis, and remediation. So we’ve seen a lot of results out of the work. It’s a little more of a long tail thing, because changing service delivery and internal capability, is a lot harder than focusing on a tactical, “Let’s fix this thing, and let’s test it and let’s see if the conversion goes up or down.” And one of the harder things about service design is to measure how do you know it’s working, and how do you know it’s because of what you did? ‘Cause things we’re diagnosing, and finding out and fixing, those are things that were being worked on and diagnosed and fixed anyways, just not on a big connected manner. And so the ways we have been able to track it, we rely on customer support data a lot, to see if… There’s these big end-to-end journeys, and they have ups and downs and they cross business units and teams, but when things are painful or don’t go great, they do all end up in customer support. And we’re fortunate to be a company that, we charge money for everything we do. A lot of companies they don’t charge, they’re free to use. And so we actually have staffed, customer support on the phone, on the chat, on the email.
So we can say, “Okay, we have a lot of people ending up with complaints about: They don’t know what their price was. They call up because they’re unsure if their account is active or not. They don’t understand their bill.” And that has multiple root causes in places that it originates, and so we have to say, “Okay, where can we look way down the river and say, is there less debris, and less free floating logs and branches and stuff backing up this river and making it not flow well?” And so reaching results in that sense, the service design projects aren’t gonna change a metric in one specific area that you can A/B test. They’re gonna change how their relationship with the customer works. And so you really need a data strategy, to say how do you measure the health of a continually needing to be maintained, service relationship with a customer? And so finding out how do we even measure that? Where does it become visible? That’s where we’ve getting the successes, on the places that that’s easy to see, like call volume goes down, net promoter goes up on the overall experience. But it’s much slower and it’s much broader. But it does work, I will tell you. It does work and people love it, and Intuit is fully bought in, we’ve just got to figure out how to work those muscles.
Shannah: Right. Okay. So we’re just coming up sort of towards the end of our time. Before I get to our last question, I do want to mention to everybody who’s watching, that Erik and Megan have a fantastic online community on Slack, and so I believe we’ll be posting some details about how you can interact with that. And then also, their e-book on service design, blueprinting, is also a great resource. So we’ll make sure that those are available. But just in the interest of time, let’s go back to Megan, and then we’ll finish up with Erik. But I wanna ask you both… For people who are looking to either move into service design as a profession, or to bring service design into their organizations, what’s the one or two key point of advice that you would offer to them?
Megan: I’ve got a lot, but yeah, definitely, join the Slack community. Finding your community, and finding the people who can support you and be mentors to you. Not that I’m offering mentorship to everyone, but really that’s what the community is about. It’s about being able to post the silly questions, and get lots of different answers, and lots of different support. That’s why we created our community, because we were feeling really alone. And it’s hard to find others who are practising this, when it’s an emerging field. So finding your community is a big piece. Also finding your supporters, where you work. If do you wanna bring service design to your organization, really find out who are your supporters, and your allies, and your advocates. Who’s gonna be there for you? Who’s gonna help sponsor your effort? What I did was, I talked about this for months, and finally I ended up talking to the right person. And the right person made the space for it to happen. In your organization, you have to navigate that, with that kind of political and organizational hierarchy layer, to try to make space for this to happen. But you don’t have to wait for that, for formalizing service design as a function, to start doing service design.
I think you must start with where you are, and think about, instead of “I’m a designer, I own the experience of this website, or this app,” think, “Okay, I’m just gonna pretend for a day that I own the whole experience,” just pretend. And try to think from that point of view, and try to find out opportunities to maybe try out some of these new skills, whether that’s… Or tools, whether that’s journey mapping, or blueprinting, or touch point mapping. But think bigger than the box you’re in, and try to have those conversations. And don’t let that, that you don’t have that responsibility officially, don’t let that stop you. Try to find an opportunity to think end-to-end, and lead your team on an exercise through that.
Shannah: Erik, would you agree?
Erik: Yeah. It’s, service design officialness, it’s gonna be a while. And so people who are interested and wanna work that way, figure out what you wanna do, tactically. Where I wanna take this experience, “I work for a place that does this and this, and I can see how service design would really apply. How can I get the soft skills, get some hard skills, and start trying to do it, and start coming up with the quick wins?” I’m the type of person where quick wins are very difficult for me to do, ’cause I’m like, “No, let’s do long wins, let’s flip this business on it’s head.” But really the key, and I can promise this. I can give you the Erik guarantee, that if you can put together pilot projects, and if you can put together nice visceral, visual artifacts that map out the customer experience, but much more importantly the internal experience, the internal pains, the costs, the drawbacks, the capability failures of… We don’t even have the technology to support this thing, we’re telling the customers we can, and it’s this manual process that involves three people that could’ve been solved with one line of code. That’s when I’ve had senior vice-presidents and general managers go… They look at the big map I print out on the wall, and they’re like, “Oh, yeah I see this. This is what I’ve been talking about. Can we go fix things in this way?”
And they never had the ability to say, “Oh, yeah, go fix things in this way.” ‘Cause they never seen it. They’re busy managing huge business divisions, not mapping out end-to-end surface to core experiences, so if you can do it gorilla style… The first time we did it was with six people in a room, we were like, “Let’s just map out this big customer support issue that’s one of our top.” And then we came and presented that map to the SVP. He had no idea what we’re doing or what it was, he couldn’t care less about the words “Service design.” But when he saw it, he was like, “Yeah, this is what I’ve understood as the business owner. Fix this, because geez, look at how much impact it’s gonna have.” That thing he wanted to fix, it didn’t exist until it was printed out 10 feet wide, four feet tall, ’cause we have a big printer. And that was it, that was the first buy in. And from there, it’s just, we keep doing that. And every time they see this maps, the people love it. And then someone else calls me, and it’s like, “Can you come show us how to do that?” And I don’t have… There is no official service design department. I just go from word of mouth to word of mouth for the last two years.
Shannah: That’s great. So I think we’re at the top of our time now. Megan, Erik, I wanna to thank you so very much for these great insights, and I think the people on the line have really enjoyed it. I’m sorry we couldn’t get to everybody’s questions, but we will be doing a follow up. Anita is here with me, and…
Anita: Yeah, I’m just gonna ad a few administrative things. So, this has been recorded. We will definitely be following up with an email to everyone who has attended, and those who haven’t been able to, but have registered, with a link to the recording. In that email we’ll also include the information on Slack, that was alluded to earlier. So, just wanted to cover off that. Oh, what else? Follow us on Twitter, there’s a continuous stream of great content, often around service design specifically. So, please feel free to join in and chime in on those conversations. And we’ll see you again next time. Erik, Megan, Shannah, thank you very much for your time today, those 50 minutes flew by. Your insights, were outstanding. We might have to do a follow up, because again, to Shannah’s point, we did not get to at least half of the questions.
Shannah: Thanks for having me.
Anita: Thanks everybody.
Erik: Bye, thanks for having me.
Shannah: Thank you.
Erik: Bye bye.