Define product excellence with service design

How to deliver high-quality experiences for people where they are and when they need them.

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Break down the complete system

People—their thoughts, needs, interactions, perceptions—are unique. Their perspectives directly influence how they think about, interact with, and gain value from interacting with a service. However, fixating on the customer alone is not the same as being customer-centered.

Similarly, physical surroundings are distinct and influence the experience. Watching a movie on an airplane is never the same as being in a high-end cinema. While time on a flight goes by faster, experiencing a film in the theater is a more immersive experience. Both locations (theater and airplane) have constraints and pain points to consider. The drink cart is a welcome sight at 30,000 feet, but it would be a disaster in a cinema.

As the complexity and context of the service expands, so do the contextual challenges and risks. Rather than try to understand everything in one view, break down the interactions into a series of moments. Look at each handoff point and ownership point. Who drives action? Who is waiting for next steps? With an inventory of the interdependencies across efforts and teams, it’s possible to get ahead of items that would otherwise become product debt.

Teams and professionals need to broaden their perspective and become more inclusive and intentional about their product decisions. Consider the experience a person using the product needs to have to be successful. Part of this success includes understanding the systems that support a product and its impact on the larger context the product exists within.

Service design provides the platform to determine design thinking value. The practice breaks down problems into manageable segments. It primes the dev team for productive conversations around adoption, change management, stability considerations, and documenting the overall maturity of the current and future state system.

A closer look at financial services

Industry insiders discuss the process of a customer acquiring a new financial product in terms of “digital onboarding” and an “omnichannel” or “channel-less” strategy. These terms are inclusive of a long list of factors, such as:  

  • How does the customer first hear about the product?

  • How does a customer express interest?

  • What happens when they take action?

  • Where do they have to be to complete the process (e.g., in the bank, in front of a computer)?

  • What actions are required for completing the process operationally?

  • Can users stop/start the process?

  • Is a wet signature required?

  • How much information and what type of data does the customer need to provide?

  • What are all the possible outcomes?

  • What is the customer experience like when using the product?

The above being the shortlist, it makes sense to use industry terms (e.g., customer on-boarding). Realistically, a customer isn’t going to wake up, and while enjoying their morning coffee think about onboarding to a financial product omnichannel style. However, a customer would think about opening a bank account and the steps they need to take to complete the process.

Empathy for the customer and their situation—as well as their needs when using a product—is more important than any specific business requirement. Having a customer persona derived from research and a journey map are a reliable baseline for meaningful interactions. Experiences are not truly user-centered without a holistic approach. Take time to understand the customer’s environmental considerations and the entire experience. Otherwise, results may fall flat.

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