Service design trend 3/5: ecosystem services

19 Sep 2018

4 min read

There are a number of developments happening that lead to companies collaborating more on certain services or customer problems. First of all, organizations that have a common goal are more likely to gravitate towards each other anyway. Take the aviation industry. The airport aims to offer customers the best travel experience, but that also applies to airlines, the NS or the taxi service with which the traveler comes to the airport and the shop providers at the airport. With such a ‘common purpose’ you simply cannot escape cooperation. We also see that cooperation is being chosen as an answer to the power of the big tech companies. They have so much development power that they can blow everyone off the market. As a result, smaller players are forming alliances at the national level to stay competitive. In the expectation that Amazon will one day seriously come to the Netherlands, companies such as PostNL and Coolblue, for example, are already pulling together. And then there are also the technological developments in the current network economy. This creates all kinds of new ways to add value. It is simply much easier to work together successfully.

‘In many situations, cooperation is necessary to provide optimal service’

The need for cooperation
The above developments are reinforced by the increasing focus of many organizations on customer experience / customer experience (CX). Those who work from the customer’s perspective will soon see that working in an ecosystem of partners is very logical and even indispensable. Take the aforementioned aviation sector: ‘An airline has convinced a customer to buy two plane tickets to New York in its user-friendly online environment. Thanks to a number of e-mails with useful tips, the customer is even more excited about this trip. However, things go wrong during the journey to the airport: the taxi service arrives too late and the customer is also treated unfriendly.’ Although the airline itself cannot do anything about this, this situation has a negative impact on the customer’s travel experience – and this in turn reflects negatively on the airline. This example shows that in many situations cooperation is necessary to provide the best service. In fact, all parties in the chain will ultimately benefit from such cooperation, provided it is handled properly.

‘By mapping all touchpoints and determining the role of all partners, a common goal is created’

The rise of joint customer journeys
In specific terms, working together within an ecosystem means that organizations that have the same common objective must also pursue a joint customer journey. In the case of the aviation sector, this is a fairly extensive customer journey, ranging from getting ideas online for a next holiday to buying a plane ticket and from parking at the airport to taking off the plane. For all steps of this customer journey – and there can be dozens of them – you need to provide insight into what the ideal situation for the customer looks like. Based on this, you can make improvements for each touchpoint and see what the role of each partner is in this. Only in this way can the service ‘across all channels’ be lifted to a higher level and the joint objective can be achieved. It is crucial that the (commercial) interests of all partners in the chain are also clear.

‘It is crucial that the (commercial) interests of all partners in the chain are also transparent’

We’re only at the beginning
As service designers, we play a dual role in this story. On the one hand, we are drivers of this ecosystem explosion, because we encourage organizations to create an optimal customer experience and show that collaboration is indispensable, both internally and with external partners. On the other hand, we are also able to develop such a joint customer journey with these partners because we are used to looking at a customer journey from a holistic view and breaking through silos within organizations. The next step is to break through silos between organizations and to jointly improve services. In that respect, we are clearly only at the beginning of this development.

‘The next step is breaking silos between organizations’

The coming years will see many more such ecosystems emerge, accelerated by the service transition of many companies. Take the transition that the business energy sector is currently going through. Almost all major energy players are making the transition from pure energy provider to a service provider that helps customers with sustainable business practices and cost savings  – energy is often even returned to the network. The energy provider cannot provide this service alone and must cooperate with the municipality, contractors, suppliers of solar panels, etc. This ultimately creates a new ecosystem around the small business entrepreneur focused on sustainable energy.

Other examples are the chain of circular waste processing, healthcare, electric driving and sustainability in housing. These are all examples where designing ecosystem services can accelerate progress and innovation because organizations need each other for this.

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