Service design: An interview with Andy Polaine

Audio (mp3: 38.7MB, 40:19)

Published: 8 December 2014

What is service design, and how does it relate to UX?

Gerry Gaffney: This is Gerry Gaffney with the User Experience podcast. Today's guest is an interaction and service design consultant, writer, lecturer and researcher.

He's worked on a large range of diverse projects, from film to healthcare, to transport and to marketing with a wide range of organisations, including Volkswagen in Germany and in Australia for Optus with Proto Partners. He's a researcher and lecturer in service design in the Design and Arts school of the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Switzerland.

He's co-author with Ben Reason and Lavrans Løvlie of Service Design: From Insights to Implementation published by Rosenfeld Media.

Andy Polaine, welcome to the User Experience podcast.

Andy Polaine:

Hi. Thanks for having me.


So let's get the nasty question out of the way. Is service design really a discipline or is it just a merging of good design practice and good business practise?


[Laughs.] I have I guess a different answer to this depending on who I'm talking to. I know people like Lavrans and Ben I would consider service designers but their skills, for example… because they do a lot more, they've got their own agency and they're working much more commercially than I am on longer projects. But I'm, you know, I teach students and I teach Masters and Bachelor students and I teach product designers and industrial designers and another kinds of designers and obviously service designers. But I often say to them I'm not sure that there is a role, let's call it a service designer, and I think you know, I know there's UX’ers out there who probably go "That's not true. I'm a UX’er" But I sort of think the same is possibly true of UX; that as you move up in the scale of stuff you're working on, or the kind of level of stuff you're working on into more complex things it's really a multi-disciplinary activity that a team of people do. Or it's an activity that a multi-disciplinary team of people do and that requires business people, that requires people who are you know handling the implantation stuff, all the usual suspects like developers and designers and UI people and UX’ers. But it also requires psychologists and researchers and people like that.

If there's a specific role, I would say for a service designer, someone, Stefan Moritz from Sverige said to me the other day, you know he's the Director of Service Design, and I actually started film and video and photography and stuff in my undergraduate and I think the film director role is one that sort of makes sense to me; that all the people working on a film are filmmakers but they all have specific skill sets and what the director is kind of doing is keeping that vision intact and often making a lot of decisions. Do we do this? Or do we do that? And it's really looking at, the same as a UX’er would look at, what's going to serve the user experience well? I think a service designer or a director of service design is going to look at how do these mesh together. How are we trying to deliver a service that's really great but also how does it work behind the scenes too?

It's a complicated answer to a simple question but the question's actually not so simple. And I think it's emerging too. I think that's why there's no sort of pat answer to that.


I guess all of those types of questions do tend to become very political looking at any new field; does it really exist or is it just a way to extract more money from clients?


Yeah. You know it's a tricky thing that's going on. You see it, we're probably jumping ahead a little bit but there's a trend that's going on at the moment, and you know I've talked about it in my UX Futures presentation. I did this online conference the other day and so I do a lot of workshops, for example, so my job mainly is, I work half in academia and I work as a consultant. A lot of my job is working with UX and other sort of mixed teams within companies, helping them to get to wherever it is they want to go. And often that's a, you know a company like a telco or it's a company like, I just did a workshop with an insurance company in Switzerland and they want to re-think either blue sky stuff of where can we develop new services or it's stuff like we know that our customers love to hate us and we want to change that.

And what tends to happen in any of those workshops, there comes a point where everyone's going; this is really great, this is absolutely what we need. But you know in order to implement that we're going to really have to change our organisation and the business. And so there's always that moment where you get into cultural change and organisational change. And that's where design and UX, well service design becomes sort of strategic design and it's where then in the other direction you're seeing all the MBAs and kind of management consultants going "Well you know we, that's our world but it's not really been working so brilliantly recently and we understand that you know Apple's the poster child of this, you know we understand the importance of design and we really need some design."

So you're seeing it sort of coming in the other direction. So it's interesting to me that you've got things like Fjord being acquired by Accenture, who are classically a management consultancy. It's interesting to see the acquisition by Capital One of Adaptive Path because there you're seeing a financial institution valuing the user experience enough to think well we want to have that in-house. You know and the question is, the million dollar question, is you know how's it all going to turn out because you know for years and years and years in the advertising world there's been clients that have eventually bought their own sort of in-house, you know they've snapped up a small agency to have their own in-house team and often it means that you know a few years later spin it out again because that team's kind of dried up or died or something because it just you know the culture or fit hasn't been right.

My feeling is that things might have matured a bit and changed a bit. I don't know about, certainly in the case of Capital One and Adaptive Path, the thing that's frustrating, right, from our side of you know whether you're a consultant, whether you're an agency is you have a kind of, you're making lots of small dents in a very large kind of super tanker that's floating around usually. So, you're nudging it a bit. So you get brought on to do a project, you get brought on to do a... I don't know, an app or you do a website or maybe it’s something a bit more strategic and bigger like a complete service or a new service offering or improving one and if you're lucky that sticks and the work you've done sticks and you actually get the chance to see that get delivered and something new and amazing kind of happens.

Quite often what happens is, you know there's a little thing that happens, there’s a new little offering from sort of like a telco but the rest of the stuff sort of remains the same. And I can really see the attraction for working in-house for somewhere like Capital One because if you think of the equivalent to product design where a company like Apple, but other companies too, product design companies, you know car companies, for example, put an enormous amount of effort into crafting their products. You know, where the seam of the screen of the iPad meets the casing. Or the clunk and the click of the VW or Mercedes door, you know those engineers spend a lot of time on that kind of thing.

The same doesn't happen in services. You know, you get those cracks in services all the time where you go from one touchpoint to another, one channel to another. You know I was on the website and I had a problem and I called the call centre and they were speaking a different language and all that stuff that makes for crappy experiences, service experiences.

And so I can see a company, you know I don't know if this is Capital One's intention or not but I can see if a service company realised, hey we need to craft our service experiences as well as those other companies who are creating products craft their product experiences, it makes a lot of sense to have those people in-house. I don't know how car companies work, for example. You know you see with Apple that their design team is in-house, right? I don't know how many external people they use, nobody knows, or how many external designers and so forth and consultants automotive companies bring in. But most, it strikes me that most of the expertise is in-house.

The equivalent for a lot of financial companies or telcos and stuff would be, you know, to have someone like Mercedes saying yeah we're sort of a design company, we're a car company. But the actual design of our cars, we're going to outsource to someone else because you know it's cheaper. It's impossible to imagine that. So I hope to see that this is the trend, to the crafting of services, whether that's in-house or agency-led, I'm not sure.


Yeah, I've always felt that it was strange to see what really are core competencies, or should be core competencies, outsourced. You've touched on several points there. I guess one thing that I'm particularly interested in at the moment is working within government and I'm you know the team that I've worked with finished a jury management service recently. We've had members of the public ringing up to say thank you for the new service which is just a bizarre experience. But in our case it came down to executive buy-in. I mean that was the key ingredient that if you took everything else away that was the one that really pushed us through.


Yeah, I think that's very true and everyone I speak to who's been involved on, you know, is in the company side of the people I consult with, or for, you know that's absolutely true. They need quite a high level of someone who's championing the process and who’s really holding their hand over them and protecting them from the forces that just kill of projects and it's banal stuff. It's you know personality clashes and fiefdoms and all the other stuff and I think the government thing is interesting, I don't know if you know Lisa Reichelt from, I pronounce her name very German, I know she's not, she's English. She's working with and I had a chat with her the other day and she was telling me a lot about that process and you know their mandate is to create digital services that people prefer to use.

So you know the government position has generally been we're the government, you use whatever we tell you to use because we're the government. It doesn't matter if the user experience is crap or not because you have to use it. And what they're trying to do is say no, no let's think about this differently and we make stuff that people actually want to use. And it acts as kind of a Trojan horse. So the example I used in my talk the other day was prison services. So they've been designing a, re-designing the website to book a visit to visit a prisoner.


That's right. I spoke to Andrew Harder about that recently.


Right, right. So, that has a, you know, there's a UX and a UI process in designing that website, that booking process. But obviously then it highlights all the other parts. So as soon as you start tracking the customer journey and doing the kind of research and stuff that you would do for a project like that you start to look at well what's happening before? How are those people treated when they actually get to the prison? How do all the different parts link up? And so it highlights all the cracks between the silos.

And then you can think of it further. So you know knock-on effect of being, making it easier for people to visit their loved ones in prison is that the person in prison is less likely to re-offend because you know if they're visited more often by their loved ones they're reminded of the world outside and they're reminded of what they have to lose and so forth, right? So there's a sort of another sort of Power of 10 up. You've got this kind of whole knock-on effect that's a much bigger picture but it's all starting with the re-design of a website. And so that's the sort of Trojan horse through which you can kind of actually affect some change.

And I think that the real skill that designers have, which arguably, the sort of the management consultants, who have the business background, don't have, is our ability to make those things tangible and visible. So you know whether it's visualising a customer journey or a user journey, whether it's making prototypes and saying, “Hey look at this. This is how it could be." I think that's a really powerful skill and I think in the whole sort of design thinking thing we slightly lose that and I think we, designers often underplay that skill and the power of it.


I guess to change topic slightly, it's probably fair to say that any organisations looking at undertaking service design as an exercise for a particular service or dipping their toe in the water or whatever it happens to be, they’re looking at a considerable investment, both in time and in money.

How can they justify that? Is there a way that they can justify that expenditure upfront without necessarily knowing what the outcome's going to be?


Yes, so that's a classic kind of business question, right? In the sense that, maybe we can go back to the stuff because Lisa told me a bit about this. You know in the academic world, strangely enough although research should be “we don't really know what we're going to discover but we're going to sort of go out and try to discover it” is what research should be, research funding's really very conservative. They want to know before we give you this money, what are you going to find out?

But the same is true in business, right. So you have this thing of we need to know exactly all the steps and what the outcomes are going to be before we release this money. The argument, I mean I understand why that's the case because someone’s kind of neck is on the line and so forth. The argument against working that way is an adjunct one really where you're saying well look instead of we're having a big budget for this that we're, you have to write a whole requirements document or whatever it is you know, pages of justification and have everything planned out which is going to be really inflexible later on when we discover in fact that we were working on the wrong problem. Let's work in a way where you sign off on this small amount of money and then this next small amount of money as we go through this iterative process and Lisa was saying that part of the challenge they had for was really to get the Treasury to change their procurement process and to change that because they wanted the upfront big sign-off and actually they made an argument saying no it's less risky, you know what, it's all about risk so what those big sign-off things are about is I want to know that there's a minimum amount of risk before I sign off on this large amount of money.

What there is ample evidence of in large projects like you know patient digital records, which have been disastrous in the UK, or any of those kind of big IT projects really, is that you know half way through when they've spent millions, or Myki, right? Myki in Melbourne, this is another classic example, right? It just balloons out and out and out because it's been sort of, not been, there’s been a big sign-off and then there's, it's not really been kind of prototyped in a smaller, cheaper way.

So, the argument is you think you're mitigating for risk by having us plan everything to the nth degree before you send off but in fact you're probably creating more risk. The least risky way, or the less risky way is to have a sign-off on this first element and this first set of prototypes or this first set of customer journeys and then we do more refined experience prototypes and it's still cheaper than implementing the entire thing. And then we're going to do a pilot where we've got a subset of the service that we're putting live. And only then are you going to kind of launch it live rather than you know I don't know if Myki did a pilot or not, they may have done, but it's not been the best example of a project out there. And there's lots of things where you think well you know if you'd done a decent pilot and asked the right questions and that you would have found that the card readers are slow, you would have found that people really need their top-ups. So Myki is Melbourne's RFID ticketing system for the Melbourne public transport system and Melbourne has a really good system of trams as well as other public transport. And what's happened with Myki is that a whole bunch of things, there's a really good example of how a series of small touch-point problems aggregate to a kind of disaster. So they've got slow card readers which meant that people's cards weren't getting, you have to sort of touch on and off although you don't have to touch off all the time and that's another confusing thing. You actually have to touch and hold the card until it kind of registers and then go but I think the original kind of ad campaign for it, or marketing, [was] like touch on and off so then people were doing it and they were sort of tapping and that didn’t work and then they were sort of trying to swipe it and that didn't work so waving it, all sorts of things.


In fact there were instructions at the railway station saying "Don't tap. Don't swipe. Don't wave".


Exactly so and those turn up later so you've got these kind of signs then that sort of after the fact saying "No, don't do this. Don't do that." And that for me is always a really good sign that something's not working in the system the way it was originally planned. It's like having sort of sticky labels saying "Don't unplug this" or you know...


Do not lean on this counter.


Exactly, all of those things and so what's happened is it’s actually made this system slower because people were trying to get off the tram, and they really want to touch off and make sure it gets registered because they don't want to be paying extra costs and there's all sorts of disasters with it and for those of you who don't know the budget, the original budget was I think $340 million and it's now, or $400 million, I can't remember, and it's now $1.5 billion which is, you know you could do two Mars Rover missions for that money.


A slight increase.


Yeah, yeah so you see that idea of kind of mitigating risk through planning everything to death is actually an illusion, but it's an illusion that if you're looking at a spreadsheet makes sense because spreadsheets are very poor vehicles for human experiences.


You mentioned the procurement process there, Mike Bracken gave a very interesting talk at Code for America. He talks about this thing the square of despair… one is procurement, which he says and the fact that people were saying they avoided by not doing procurements, as I said. But the other thing was budget. He said if you've got too much money that's a big predictor for things going pear-shaped.


Well yeah I think it's probably quite true. I mean I think that you know there's a very good book by Dan Hill, he used to live in Australia actually, called Dark Matter and Trojan Horses and it's about strategic design and one of the things he talks, the dark matter in it is all the forces that play like policies and procedures and cultures within organisations, a lot of contextual stuff that is kind of invisible to your specific project, particularly if you're working as a UX'er on a particular thing like a website or an app and so forth. But it makes its presence felt in some way. So you can't see it but it's really… it's the reason why projects die, it's the reason why things go off the rails and it's usually something kind of invisible like oh well we have to have, we have to go through this request for proposals or we have to go through the procurement process because that's the way it is here.

And that triggers then a whole lot of other things that kind of cause disasters and it encourages people to underbid and or you know spec stuff out as if it's actually going to happen and then but they're just doing it because they have to jump through those hoops and so forth you know. So I think you know there's a lot of stuff in there that's invisible and it's not really the job of UX'ers and it's not often the job of service designers but if you're not aware of it can really send your project off the rails.


Well it's very difficult isn't it to deal with organisational politics in general. I mean it's one of those areas that’s very mushy and hard to cope with, in my experience anyway.


Yeah but it has an effect. So you know if you're finally you're thinking well what's the final customer experience, for example? So the example in the book, from Gjensidige, that's a Norwegian insurance company, one of the things that that live|work found for example was that customers were saying, when I speak to the people in the call centre, I feel like I'm being sold to and they felt like they were being sold to because they were being sold to. And the reason why they were being sold to is because the KPIs for the call centre staff or for the sales staff were sales and so that's an internal, a bit of dark matter that's driving a certain tendency. When they changed that to be customer satisfaction so the targets for the sales people were about customer satisfaction, the sales people were happier because not many people really like selling and the customers are happier because they're not being sold to. They actually feel like they're being given advice rather than just being sold stuff. So you know it's a, the end result is you want a customer experience but it's an internal thing that's actually triggering bad customer experience.


And to loop around back to what we were talking about earlier on, I mean the Gjensidige story was very interesting too, I found, because one of the things they explored was just selling a single insurance policy to everybody. I guess taking a service design approach enabled them to explore that at very little cost and decide hey that's not way we're going to go with it in the end.


Well they decided that, so the histories of the, the background to that is, just so people know, insurance companies try to actually provide a great, well not... insurance companies try and provide the most cost effective insurance to people by doing all the mathematics, right? So you live here, you're this age, you're this gender and so forth. You know in our massive table of data about from the last 100 years we know this is the risk and they chop up what they call financial products, although they're not, they chop those up to kind of to suit, right? So the can tailor stuff. So they can say well… you're not at risk of in this area but you are a risk in this area so you only have to pay for this bit.

And it makes sense as a business. It kind of makes sense for customers because ideally customers are getting the optimised thing. It just becomes really confusing. It's like mobile phone plans, right? You just look at it and you can't... I don't understand, I don’t know how many text messages I send a month. I don't know, you know… all of that stuff is too confusing. How much does it cost? That's what I'm going to make my comparison and judgement on. And so quality and things like that go completely out the window.

So one of the things they explored was in a workshop was where an actuary, you know they're the people, the mathematicians who do all that sort of statistical analyses, said you know I've been working on something for five years, I think it was, I think we can do this differently. I think instead of having a car insurance policy, a house policy, a house contents policy, life insurance, accident and so forth, I think we can have two things; everything you own and the people who matter in your life.

And it there was a sort of a way of working that out and one of it was about people paying, what's it called? I can't think of the English version. What's the bit you pay yourself when you're making an insurance claim?


An excess usually.


An excess, yeah, yeah.


There's another term.


Yeah, no I was thinking of, I have this thing, I was thinking of the German word and I couldn't, selbstbeteiligung is the word it's called in German. So if you raise that bit, and you know, a lot of people usually have a bit of savings somewhere, if you raise that a bit and so you get rid of all this kind of frivolous claims for a pair of glasses and so forth, actually the whole thing becomes cheaper and it's possible. So it's a way of kind of connecting, it's a really good example of how you know re-thinking the business or calibrating the business slightly differently means it has a ripple on effect in terms of the thing you might create, the service.

What they decided was at the time was it was too radical for their industry at the time. But they are actually I think re-exploring it now. But it did kick off then a whole load of other… but they sort of scaled it back a bit and then thought about well how can we simplify, how can we look at all the other stuff that we currently offer with that in mind? But prototyping that was a really important part, you know looking at prototyping an ad campaign and looking; how would you sell that? How would it look like in a newspaper ad and so forth? As a proposition making those abstract service things tangible is a really important part of the process.

I think service design is - and I think UX too actually - but I think service design has a lot to do with zooming in and out mentally, from the detail, like the card reader of Myki through to the bigger picture and then going in the other direction. So in the Gjensidige example of well here's the macro picture of the kind of business, how would that manifest if we changed that? How would it manifest across all the touchpoints? And frequently problems happen when people are discussing that stuff at sort of different levels and they're not even aware of it.


You mentioned service design blueprint there. Do you want to tell us about that?


Yeah so there's a caveat to this which is almost every designer seems to use them differently. Not every service design agency uses them and every agency uses them differently and they change it depending on the client that they’re working with. So if I was to start, I'm going to start with something a bit different. I'll start with a sort of customer experience map so you might know this from Chris Risdon, or where you're looking at a particular journey through a service and of a particular customer and you're tracking their experience and you might have one of those curves like a kind of dramatic arc almost of going through and you're seeing someone and you're mapping out - usually there's a couple of rows underneath where it's saying, you know, what are they thinking? What are they feeling at this point in time? What are the opportunities? And so forth. And that sort of tracks someone's journey over time and where the different sort of design inputs or the service interactions are, the touchpoints are. And those can be really useful and it's one of those powers of 10 thing again. That's at a certain level of looking at a particular journey.

What sometimes happens though as you look at, as you have a, if you have a complex service like a telco they end up… I had a client I worked with and they said "Oh we've got ...." I can't remember what they had, like 50 or 80 customer journeys and then when they tried the stuff out nobody took any of them. So you know there's this idea if we define all the customer journeys then someone is going to take one of them but it's not realistic, it's a bit like programs. The difference between sort of procedural programming and object orientated programming or you know placing every rain drop or just making the rules for rain.

And what a blueprint is, is essentially a grid and it divides, in that grid you usually have the kind of time axis there. So you've got along the top you've got sort of key phases which tends to be something like an awareness phase, you know how do people find out about our service? Some kind of joining phase; how do they start using it? A usage phase; some kind of development of that usage so if they become a sort of expert user or they become a member of a community and contribute and so forth. And then leaving; and leaving is a part of the process that companies often forget, you know, because they view the customers leaving their service as kind of dead wood but actually in like the telco environment where there are only a few players, at some point you come back if they don't burn you terribly badly when you're leaving.

So that's important. That in itself, that time axis is pretty important because a lot of companies aren't really set up to think about that. They all look at their different departments or they all do research where they’re asking customers "What did you think of our website?" "Oh, yeah it's great." "What do you think of our app?" "Oh, yeah that was fine." What they're not really asking is "What do you think of our website now when you first started using it?" "Oh yeah it's great." And then "What did you think of it as you were trying to do something else later on?" And they say "Oh well actually it was a complete disaster and in fact when I went to the app it had different language too or terminology to the website." So that's a time axis and axis is really important to get a sense of those transitions.

And then so those are the columns, if you like, of the grid. And the rows of the grid are at the top. You have usually put what's the experience we want to try and deliver? You know, what are people thinking or feeling when they, when we get this right? And then the other rows are the different channels. So you might have something like the web or mobile or those might be one channel depending on what it is. You might have face-to-face, you know people, you could have other customers, products, all those different channels that a service is delivered over.

So if you think of something like car sharing, you've got the cars themselves, you've got the website where you book stuff and register, where maybe you track your bidding and so forth, you've got an app, you've got whatever product solution is there to get people to actually be able to unlock the car, you know whether it's a car ID thing, whether it's done with a phone or whatever. You've got other customers, right? So if someone leaves the car really messy, what happens then? If someone doesn't re-fuel it and so forth. You've got fuelling; how does the refuelling, do you pay for the fuel or does the service pay for the fuel? And then you've got all the traditional stuff like print and other marketing things.

But what you've also got then; so those are all the channels and then there's a front stage and back stage metaphor. So there's all the stuff that the customer experiences or interacts with is front stage and then there's back stage stuff like customer relationship, databases. There's other systems and services that are going on. And they're there to support the delivery of the experience and so sometimes what happens is, so Myki is a good example again. A credit card top up I believe takes 72 hours to actually come through which is ridiculous, right? So that’s a back stage thing that's really dumb because if you're on a, you know if you're travelling somewhere around Melbourne and you realise you're Myki card has got zero credit on it, the whole point of doing a credit card top up instead of going somewhere and putting some cash into a machine is that it's kind of instant, it's convenient, you can do it from your phone or whatever. If it takes three days for it to come through that's just absurd. So you get sort of back stage problems that surface much later on in the journey.

So it's really just the grid and it can be used to analyse an existing service that you've got, research that you've done and you can pull that in and you can have a look at it; you know where people are having poor journeys and you can map those out. If you imagine in every cell of that grid you've got a touch point, which is a sort of moment in time where someone interacts with a channel. So I was trying to use this to buy a ticket and I was trying to use the website and so you can see a sort of a row and a column there where you're having that experience.

It's also really good for generating ideas. I think it's more useful personally for brainstorming ideas. So you might have an idea for improving a service or a new one and it's really just Post-It notes on the wall and what you're thinking of is an initial use case scenario where you might go okay so we've got this great idea and there's an app and you know someone's using it and then mentally you sort of step backwards and forwards and across the channels. So you go, OK how do people find out about this app? And then how do they even sign up for it? And then the other, how do they expand the usage of it? What happens when they leave? When they finish using that service in that moment? Or when they actually want to completely leave? How does it work across other channels?

And then what you end up is like a sort of map of an ecosystem of the service. And it's quite high level. It's not going into a massive load of detail. But you can then track different kinds of personas or journeys through that. So you could start or you can say well here's someone who starts in a shop, face-to-face, then they get some information, they go online and try and do something and then they move across to their phone and then they go back to the shop. So at different stages in the journey they've taken different journeys. And in that way you can take as many journeys as you like through it, through different kinds of configurations without being sort of trapped in the detail of a specific customer journey.

That said, a spin-off of it would then be more detailed customer journeys where eventually you need to obviously design the stuff. So it's more of a kind of overview but the idea is that you're keeping anything you do, any changes you make or anyone else who might be coming in to work on the project and see where their bit fits into the entire context. You sort of need visuals too to make sense of that.


Yeah I guess there's a on top of that level there's an additional level of complexity if you look at…You mentioned the and the prison visits thing so you've got you know the journey that the prisoner has, the journey that the family has but you've also got the journey that the prison warden who's organising the visit has and the wardens’ services who are organising that person's role and then any support services. You've got so many different factors that you're trying to represent in some way. It becomes very complex.


It does and I think the important thing is you're not trying to design everything necessarily. I mean usually there's some scope of a project but it's really important, that thing I was saying before, it's really important to be aware of the context. So there are some things you are not able to affect as part of, as your role on this project. But you can mitigate for them so I mean flying is an example of where all of the different parts of it just never really match, right? So it's in general a very expensive, terrible service experience and because it's made up of a lot of different parties who are contributing to that experience. So you're constantly encountering the cracks in the service and each one of those, if you looked at it individually, you'd go well it's not that bad, but the actual entire thing is pretty awful.

So I'm always surprised airlines can't, they can't change, well they can put pressure on but an individual airline can't change the fact that you have to throw your water away as you go through security, for example. But they know that, they could have something when you get to the gate saying you know "Had to throw your water away at security? Have a free one on us" or something like that. So they can be aware of where are the people coming from of a kind of, part of the experience of the service that we can't affect and how could we pick them up at that point and do something good for them? And that's all about showing empathy as well.


Do you have any advice, Andy, for people who are working perhaps in UX or a related field and they find themselves either being pushed into or wanting to get into service design as an area to work in?


So the good news is there's a lot of tools you have already. So it’s all the things about tracking user journeys and customer journeys and so forth and you're moving out of the perhaps screen-based way of thinking, is one bit of advice. So UX'ers often say it's more than that but whenever I go to UX or interaction design conferences, most people are talking about web and mobile experiences and I think the important thing to remember is those are happening in the context of someone's life and those lives are messy and you have many more things that are influencing the experience than just the thing of what you're seeing on the screen. But, you know, you have a lot of those abilities to experience prototype stuff, you have a lot of those skills already to do really good user research and field research on people's lives and activities and behaviours and motivations and so forth.

I think the trick is, what I was talking about, that sort of macro to micro, zooming in and out. If you can zoom out of where you're thinking well I'm designing this great screen-based experience to sort of the bigger picture but then zoom back in again and keep doing that so toing and froing; that's a really important skill.

I think the ability to see those kinds of patterns and connections is a really important skill to have. I'm not sure whether that's something that's really taught or whether it's just something you're either that kind of person or not. And the other thing is the business side of things; so understanding that dark matter, understanding what's going on for your clients.

I think designers, particularly UX'ers, there's this kind of manifesto that's a bit like we're protecting the user from these kind of terrible beastly corporations and people in suits are out to make your experience rubbish and we're kind of there to kind of fight for your rights which is great but you know those terrible corporations are in fact staffed by people who have lives and motivations and stuff and I think turning your empathy lens onto, upwards to the client and having a look at someone who's giving you perhaps the client contact for the job or the project and thinking about what do they need to actually get this through?

You were talking earlier, we were talking before about sort of champions. What do they need to be able to, who do they need to convince? What's the context in which they're having their, living and working? How can I help that person affect some kind of change within the organisation is a really important part of it. And I think by doing that you actually understand the business much more. I think much more than you do from looking at it from a certain management top-down perspective.


Andy's book is Service Design: From Insights to Implementation, and he blogs here.

Andy Polaine, thanks for joining me today on the User Experience podcast.


It's been a pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.