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Service design trend 2/5: operational processes

Sander Kruitwagen

Sander Kruitwagen

Head of Operations

3 Sep 2018

0 min read

The obsessive focus on the ideal customer experience makes service designers very suitable to guide a (digital) transformation. Creating that ideal customer experience and loyalty is crucial in order to make the step towards a service-driven organization. It is increasingly about the service you provide to the customer. Your products become secondary and become the means to deliver that service. For example, a lamp manufacturer that switches from selling lamps (products with a fixed price) to structural lighting for companies (a service on a subscription basis). That may not immediately sound like a huge hurdle, but these kinds of changes are extremely far-reaching and affect every facet of business operations.

“Products are increasingly becoming the means to provide a service”

Identify the exact customer needs

In such far-reaching transformation processes, it is crucial to first map out the exact wishes of the customer. Of course, an organization often already has a global picture of where the market is moving and what customers want, but you want there to be no misunderstandings about this. That is why we invite the most important stakeholders of a number of clients for interviews or a co-creation session. Bringing together these people, who fulfill the same role in different organizations, always yields many relevant insights, including sector differences. Such a session ultimately creates a complete picture of what the ideal, new situation looks like for the customer. Based on this, you can formulate the new customer promise.

“The operational processes must be adapted to the new service ambition”

Take a critical look at the operational processes

Based on this customer promise, we review an organization’s current operational processes. Can we meet the new wishes of the customer with our current operation? In many cases, the conclusion is that this operation is not optimally equipped for this purpose. Take a furniture manufacturer that prides itself on the fact that every product is custom made. This is accompanied by a long delivery time, while customers in a service proposition expect more flexibility and want to be able to switch furniture quickly. The operational processes must therefore be adapted to the new service ambition. The impact of this must of course be clear to the management before the transformation is started.

Compare the service ambition to the current operation

To determine exactly where an organization’s business operations need to change, we first compare the current ‘customer journey’ with the ideal new situation. With this baseline measurement, we want to know exactly what the operation looks like, how work is done and where the points for improvement are. We interview employees from different departments, with the aim of understanding the current working method and determining how it needs to change in order to meet the new customer promise.

This is a detailed process. Every step of the customer journey must be discussed, so that we can also look at what can be improved for each step. We also once again ask for input from customers, but instead of their wishes, it is now about their current experiences with the services of the organization. We then map the impact on the operation by plotting the link between service ambition and operational processes.

“By plotting the link between service ambition and the operational processes, the impact on the operation becomes clear”

Ready for change

This is the moment when the big changes for an organization really begin. The entire chain must contribute to the new service ambition. From direct operations and ICT to inventory management, purchasing and logistics – changes can be necessary everywhere. You may even need to change the design of your product. Just look at the aforementioned example of the lamp manufacturer transforming into a lighting service provider. How do you ensure that you produce lamps that, in principle, never break? And if they do break, how quickly can you immediately replace them with an identical one? These are all questions that may have never been thought about before, but that do need to be answered.

“The impact is often underestimated and must therefore be clear to management before the transformation is started”

The added value of service design is that we really approach operational processes as an ‘enabler’ for the customer promise. We are thus less influenced by internal politics or a ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ mentality, but can make an outside-in analysis with our external perspective. This forms the basis of a new future for the company as a service-driven organization . This analysis is of course just the beginning – the next step is to successfully implement changes and get the internal organization involved – but it is an indispensable first step. You can only transform successfully if you know what your customer’s wishes are and where your operational processes need change.

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Sander Kruitwagen

Sander Kruitwagen

Head of Operations

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