Service design trend 5/5: technology potential

13 Dec 2018

4 min read

In the previous articles in this series, the typical characteristics of service design have already emerged: the obsessive focus on the customer experience, the investigative way of working, the holistic view and the gathering of input from various stakeholders. These are all aspects that are also important in determining the added value of a technology for organizations. With this approach, we have spent the last year looking at how artificial intelligence can optimize healthcare and how blockchain can improve the cooperation of an airline with its suppliers.

Take the organizational vision as a starting point

It helps to ask yourself the first question with these types of issues: am I currently experiencing challenges in relation to our services in which this technology can offer improvements? This can be organization-wide, but also for specific customer-oriented services or internal business processes. This way you keep the focus, because otherwise you will run after the latest hype every week without results. At the same time, to really innovate, you have to think beyond your current context. It is important to take your organizational vision as a starting point: why are you in the world as a company, now and in 5, 10, 20 years? What problems do you solve? What is needed for this? If this vision is not there yet, that is actually the first step you should take. Only with the right frameworks can you start looking at whether and how AI, voice UI, blockchain and other new technologies will help your organization move forward.

“To really innovate, you have to think beyond the current context.”

Put the customer at the center

A clear organizational vision is ideally accompanied by a clear customer promise. That customer promise serves as a touchstone in your technology discovery journey. What does this mean for our customer? Does this improve our services? Does it make our operation more efficient? Such a question can be crucial at the beginning of the process and ensure that you do not waste time on a technology that does not help you at the moment (or in the future). But also later in the process you have to keep a critical eye on the added value for your customer. This does not mean that a customer should immediately notice that you are working with a new technology. For example, blockchain may only help you to make a specific business unit more efficient, such as cooperation with suppliers. But even then it ultimately contributes to the larger goal of your organization.

Identify the opportunities

The challenge is to provide insight into the possible implications of a certain technology for your services. Vague predictions are of no use to anyone. It is therefore smart to bring people with domain knowledge, preferably from different layers and functions within the organization, and people with technological knowledge together, for example in co-creation sessions. One group of people is an expert in their specific field and knows the challenges they face on a daily basis, the other group of people can use their knowledge to apply the new technology in the right way.

As service designers, we map customer scenarios and plot where the technology has potential. By bringing everything together in a clear way and making it immediately tangible, it becomes possible to form a shared understanding of the matter and to efficiently discuss these scenarios. For each discipline, you can work out in concrete terms what the future could look like if the technology is used.

“This way you can work out in specific terms how a technology can contribute to future services”.

It is important to continue to test these tangible changes against the organizational vision and the customer promise. An additional advantage of bringing disciplines together is that they are challenged to think innovatively about their own role and are directly involved in possible organizational changes. When we work out a vision with a customer and map out the route to get there, we notice that this leads internally to enthusiasm and conviction to get started.

Make a decision with more confidence

The ability of service designers to clearly map knowledge and provide insight into changes helps organizations make better, informed decisions about the added value of a technology. With the organizational vision and the customer promise as a starting point, you make such a decision with much more confidence and the FOMO disappears automatically. It is only interesting if a technology really improves your service to the customer.

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