To people outside of the industry, it’s not immediately clear what a service designer actually does.
Put simply, a service designer plans and organises the processes behind the delivery of a service, to create the best customer experience (and therefore organisational outcomes) possible.
They look inwards to the organisation’s resources and workflows, and then outwards from a customer’s perspective to identify barriers to and opportunities for improving a service.
To illustrate service design in action, let’s review an experience that all urbanised folk are familiar with: a trip to the supermarket.
From start to finish, your typical supermarket run is peppered with mild to major annoyances.
For one, there’s finding a park while other cars and people are crawling around.
Then there’s the time pressure at hand, while other disorganised people who forgot to bring their shopping list meander around aisles and blockade the meat fridge.
Screaming children, overflowing queues and cash-only checkouts really start piling it on: and then you remember you forgot to grab a bottle of milk as you become first in line. No point backing up now, though.
This is the perfect challenge for a service designer. How can these points of friction in the experience be reduced or removed to provide a better service overall?
One business that is re-designing the shopping experience is Amazon. Earlier this year, they rolled out cashier-free grocery stores in Seattle – collectively branded as Amazon Go.
To shop at the store, customers need to download the Amazon Go app onto their smartphone to enable payment and open their ‘virtual shopping basket’.
Their check-out free system uses computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning to detect which items are taken or returned to the shelves: automatically storing or removing them from the customer’s virtual basket as they pick up and put back products.
Once customers have collected all of the items they need, they can simply walk out of the store and their Amazon account is charged with the total.
Not only does Amazon Go reduce frustration and remove the wait time spent queueing, checking items out and processing payments, it also re-allocates employees to service other aspects of the customer experience, and so improve the overarching experience.
Innovations like these are within the service designer’s domain. Based on a keen understanding of human needs, wants, likes and dislikes, the ability to think creatively and holistically about a problem before rapidly prototyping and testing ideas (read: the design thinking process), service designers work to create more efficient, enjoyable, integrated service experiences.