August 17, 2011

More Clarity on Service Design

Last week, I discussed the basics of service design, an emerging field dedicated to creating more user-friendly services. Today, I’ll discuss some of the definitions within the service design framework and provide an example of how the service design framework might apply to a practical situation. The list below is by no means exhaustive, but serves as a broad overview of some of the more common terms. Please add terms and examples in the comment section, or send us a tweet @theReboot.

WHO

The entities that comprise a service

Stakeholders: Individuals or groups that affect, or are affected by, the creation and/or delivery of a service.
Service Provider: The entity responsible for the design, creation, and delivery of a given service.
Agent: A person or organization that is involved in the delivery of a given service. Usually somewhat autonomous from the service provider.
Users: The individuals and organizations that use and benefit from a given service.

HOW

The ways services are delivered and accessed

Service Delivery: The channels, methods, people, and tools through which a service reaches a user.
Engagement: The interaction between two or more of the following entities: service providers, agents, and users.
Touchpoint: Every contact point between a user, a service provider, and/or an agent. These can be any place, interface, or interaction where engagement occurs.

Branchless banking, a field that Reboot has worked in throughout the world, provides an apt application of service design terminology. Branchless banking is a strategy for delivering financial services without relying on physical bank locations. When designed correctly, it has the potential to provide crucial banking services – such as savings accounts, credit, and insurance – to populations far from a major city or a physical bank.

Let’s imagine the case of John, a rural man living in a country in southern Africa. He’s far from the capital city that houses the national bank. However, the bank has astutely realized that remote populations cannot access their financial services. They’ve created third-party bank outposts (often small retail stores) in rural villages and implemented mobile banking platforms. Grace, a local business woman who runs a small convenience store, serves as the third-party retailer. John has a mobile phone, through which he can now make banking transactions. Grace becomes his “human ATM,” allowing John to deposit or withdraw cash through her certified third-party outpost.

In this example, the national bank is the service provider. From the perspective of the bank, then, Grace is both an agent and a user of the bank’s service; and John is a user of both the bank’s consumer service and of Grace’s offerings as well. Both Grace and his mobile phone are touchpoint — one human and one technological — as John uses both to engage with the bank. When John successfully deposits his money with Grace and his cousin in another province receives it at his local third-party outpost, the full service has been provided.

This branchless banking example is just one of many applications of service design thinking and terminology. And while the given example focuses on the developing world, service design is equally as important in the developed world. As we’ve emphasized before, effective services that value users are critical components in the realization of human rights and in social progress.

If you want to learn more about service design, you can visit the Service Design Network, the UK’s Design Council Service Design site, the Service Design Tools website, and Kerry Bodine’s blog from Forrester Research. We also highly recommend the book “This is Service Design Thinking” for an in-depth, user-friendly (of course!) explanation of service design.

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