Choosenick. Notes and observations on service design, as well as other interesting things/thinking. By Nick Marsh.

Archive of December 2008

picture-1a79.png Using mobile phones to access street light services. Great little BBC video report on an innovative idea to allow residents to turn on street lights using their mobiles in Germany. What about non-residents though?
December 30th, 2008 / Trackback / Comments

Service Design for Tough Times

Alice Rawsthorn reports on the value of design, and specifically service design, in tough times in the International Herald Tribune:

... Another question is whether designers are ready to respond to these challenges, as "service" and "social" design involve very different skills to conventional design practice. The 20th-century notion of the lone "designer-hero" (there were depressingly few "heroines") shaping his projects from start to finish was always illusory, but the new approaches to design require far greater collaboration, not just with fellow designers but with experts from other disciplines like economists, social scientists, anthropologists and programmers too. Designers also have to make the leap from a material culture where their work generally had a definitive outcome, such as an object or image, to one in which they are applying design thinking to analyze problems and develop solutions that are neither visible nor tangible.

Read the full article here
December 30th, 2008 / Trackback / Comments

Service Design job with Imagination at Lancaster: Go back to Uni to become a service designer!

Imagination at Lancaster are advertising for a Research Assistant to support their work in Health. The job description asks for:

The role of the Research Associate will be to support the research team to carry out research into existing NHS innovation practices and tools and to co-develop and experiment with design and creative tools during a collaborative research project with North Lancashire Teaching Primary Care Trust. The research will adopt the following methodologies: literature review, case studies, interviews, video ethnography and participatory design workshops.

I took part on the Peer Assist forum that gave this project funding, and I've been quite closely involved in several of Lancaster's projects around Health and Transport since their launch at the beginning of 2008.

The project is being led by Daniela Sangiorgi, and is focussed on developing best practice around the use of service design and innovation methods in GP practices as they move towards a Practice Based Commissioning framework (essentially GPs being responsible for commissioning/designing the services they provide and the resulting changes to digital and physical infrastructure that supports these services.)

I'm excited about this project, and I think it would be a great opportunity for whoever gets the job - however, as I said at the Peer Review meetings, I am concerned about a couple of things.

Firstly, the project is labeled as 'research', but its principally a (service) design project. Design is different from research in that it explicitly seeks to change and improve existing things, whereas research aims to study and understand existing things. Of course the two activities are intimately related, and you can't do good design without good research first, but I believe that if one starts a project with the intent to change practice it's a design project, and as such should be led by designers. Which leads to my second concern about the project - it should be being run by a service design company, with experienced service designers planning and facilitating the 'participatory design workshops', not a university and a project team of academics.

This project is exactly the kind of work that we're doing at Engine, and that others such as live|work and Thinkpublic are also pushing hard to develop practice and projects around. Why is a university, supported by taxpayers cash, pitching and running projects that commercial agencies can do (better)? Not to mention that all the approaches (including the founding principle of Design-led public service design) being 'researched' are borrowed from agencies such as ours. They should be researching us, not competing with us.

Nonetheless, I supported the project's funding application at the Peer Assist meeting because this project, like so many, is a unique combination of specific people, in specific places with a specific initiative, and I'd much rather see this project succeed than no project take place. So if you want to apply, good luck!
December 26th, 2008 / Tags: servicedesign, publicsector, job, university / Trackback / Comments

We've been struggling, you see, with finding a way to create an innovation culture that's quite different to the one we have now. What happens in most banks is that staff dump ideas into some kind of suggestion scheme, and a central team does something with them. Innovation Market is ideation with a difference. We've created a virtual currency we call Bank Beanz. We pay Beanz to our staff for participation in an online community that collects, rates, and categorises new ideas. Staff can vote for the ideas they like, or comment on them in forums. Yes, we back the Bank Bean with cold, hard, cash. It is an exceptional motivator.
James Barker, Head of Innovation at Lloyds TSB talks about the challenges of building a service innovation culture in financial services, and what he's done to sort it out using online participation platforms. Via
December 19th, 2008 / Trackback / Comments

Using Theatre to Inspire Service Design

Karri Ojanen at Three Minds points to a great article about creating great theatre, and links it through to creating great experiences for customers:

"Chicago-based theatre producer Greg Allen's "25 Rules for Creating Good Theatre" make a good, basic guide to designing customer experience, services, and presentation technique as well. Some are basic rules that we all know and recognize, like these for example:
  • Rule #4: Know why you are creating this show.
  • Rule #5: Make form fit function.
  • Rule #15: Include a surprise.
Some others are more thought-provoking ideas. Try applying these to social media:
  • Rule #22: Get non-verbal.
  • Rule #23: Establish ritual through repetition."

The original article over at The Neo Futurists is well worth a full read, lots of lovely little ideas hidden there.

Theatre is very rich territory for service design inspiration, and the original theatrical service designer is Adam over at Work•Play•Experience who takes 'a show biz approach to customer experience.' His super simple Boom-wow-wow-wow-BOOM!! method to choreographing a great experience is an absolute must read for service designers, marketers and anyone who really cares about creating really memorable experiences.
December 19th, 2008 / Tags: servicedesign, customerexperience / Trackback / Comments

Hertz gets into the car sharing business

The NY Times reports that:

"The Hertz Corporation started a service on Tuesday that is strikingly similar to Zipcar’s. Available initially in New York and Hertz’s hometown, Park Ridge, N.J., as well as in London and Paris, it will serve customers who pay an annual fee to rent cars by the hour — without some of the hidden and not-so-hidden fees lumped into typical rental contracts."

The UK's popular version of Zipcar, called Streetcar is one of Service Design's big success stories, and its great to see this type of thinking spreading. I've heard that the auto makers might be in a spot of bother at present... perhaps it's time they started thinking about cars as a service too?

Hat tip to Umair Haque for spotting this.
December 17th, 2008 / Trackback / Comments

Co-creation traps

Gary points to a great article on My Customer that explore the challenges of moving towards a hyper customer centric approach (something I wrote about yesterday).

"Companies, lacking any knowledge of what appropriate customer inputs are needed may often ask the wrong questions, or worse, they may not know what to do with the information once they receive it. Customers, though happy to share their 'requirements', do not know what information the company really needs. No wonder then that such mutual confusion and ambiguity often leads to unexpected failure when companies pursue rigorously the customer-driven path to innovation."

Read more here.
December 16th, 2008 / Trackback / Comments

Marc Fonteijn (Twitter/Website) 's lengthy slideshow on service design from a talk he gave at the Hogeschool Rotterdam
December 16th, 2008 / Trackback

The trend towards gathering rich, realtime feedback (a.k.a having a conversation) and where it might go next

I've been noticing more and more of these little tabs that appear on websites with the word 'feedback' on them:

They're being provided by some interesting companies like Getsatisfaction, Uservoice and Ethnio. When you click on them you get lightboxes that pop up like these:

Which ask for your feedback on the site your visiting. There's subtle differences in tone between each version. Uservoice bills itself as a 'simple suggestion box', Ethnio as a recruitment tool for user research and Getsatisfaction goes furthest, offering itself as 'customer powered customer service.' I've noted Getsatisfaction before on choosenick, (I love their strapline 'Customer service is the new marketing', which almost as good as this one.)

Anyway, the thing that ties them together is that they provide companies and organisation with very rich, very realtime customer feedback on their products and services, and in particular their websites. Websites of course sit somewhere in between (or smack bang in the middle of) the product, service and communication offerings of many consumer companies.

This is much more than analytics. I've personally always found analytics quite frustrating. On the surface it seems so powerful. I remember hooking choosenick up to Google Analytics for the first time when they first made it available for free, and seeing the (anemic) data fly in was initially seductive, but I very rarely check it these days, mainly because the traffic is still anemic, but more because I want to know more than just what people look at or where they come from - I want to know about the people behind the traffic, and of course analytics software just can't do that.

Which is where Uservoice et al step in. Their services are taking the web as conversation to the next level, and in doing so giving customers and users unprecedented, rich, realtime feedback channels to companies and each other by mashing up Digg style topic voting with fine grained authentication message boards and much more - Ethnio for example asks if its ok for the site owner to call you and ask you some questions in person. What I really like is that the feedback tab appears on the homepage of all these sites - its not buried away below the faq page, its right there, in your face, all the time, an open invitation to take part in a conversation around the products and services the organisation is offering.

Gathering this rich, realtime feedback from your customers is a fascinating (and obviously very, very valuable) new service trend that's an obvious win-win for organisations and customers alike, and it can only grow and grow. Its already spawning custom sub-categories that specialise in different forms of customer feedback. BrightIdea for example has a piece of software called Webstorm that focuses on crowdstorming idea generation. Appropriately, its being used to write a book about the biggest conversation market place on the web, Twitter

I think the organisational challenges posed by systems like this are equally fascinating. Whilst the system is clearly very valuable for customers, it must be quite challenging for larger organisations setup to handle customers in a very different, much more structured and controlled fashion. The always on, very flexible 'feedback' tab means ceding a lot of control to your customers, not to mention the fact that it raises their expectations of the speed and level of response exponentially. Across the board. Once your competitors are doing it your customers will expect it from you too. Soon.

This is a fact of life for companies now, and those that embrace the new reality quickest will profit longest as they'll build more customer loyalty, and they'll start to collect more, better ideas that customers care about that they can use to improve their offers. @comcastcares now provides almost realtime, completely unstructured (from a UX perspective) customer service via Twitter - and people love it.

Where will it be interesting to see these technologies applied next? Two areas spring to mind - the real world and government.

Firstly, the real world is already doing it - witness frog metrics and the Co-op PIN pad feedback system. I think we'll see more and more of these in store digital systems which require only a small amount of effort on the customers part, and are essentially anonymous. Addison Lee, the excellent taxi and courier service in London have a brilliant system where they text you when your cab is on the way (with the drivers number) and they provide you with a second channel to feedback on your experience. See the screenshot below:

Secondly, government. This is big. Sites like and the 10 downing street petition system are starting to show the way, but imagine if all politicians websites had tabs saying 'feedback?' on them. The possibilities of that little tab are starting to feel a little endless.
December 15th, 2008 / Tags: feedback, online / Trackback / Comments
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