Archive for the 'service' Category

Wordle-d (and the thoughts that ensued)

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

So, it seems wordle.net has been gaining popularity as I’ve been making my way through my design blogs this past month. I’ll join in on this game!

My blog, wordle-d:

Well, I can’t say I’m surprised. Although the ‘relaxing’ threw me off at first.

My thesis paper, wordle-d:

Okay so fine, I talk about service… a lot. Everywhere. But this is a pretty accurate description of my thesis paper, if you cut it up into words.

On other thesis paper news, I will be speaking at the 6th Design and Emotion Conference this October in Hong Kong. I will be presenting a shortened version of my thesis paper, highlighting the main strengths that classical music has to offer in helping strengthen the field of service design. While the idea of spending 14 hours alone on a plane doesn’t particularly make me jump for joy, I’m really excited at the opportunity to present some more of my theoretical work at a public venue. All of the talks I’ve given so far have really been more practical in nature, and this should be a good mix-up for me. Thank you to the School of Design and Nokia for making this happen.

Anyway, all this visualization of my thoughts and writings has got me thinking. While I hope that I can put my service design knowledge to good use at Nokia, I am really excited to be dabbling in areas that are outside my ‘service design’ zone. I am definitely interested in mobile device concepts and the idea of mobility itself, in sustainability and ethical dilemmas, and in the globalization of products and services. I wish I could write more about these but I don’t know enough about it yet to contribute anything really meaningful. So hopefully as I step out and expand more of my design knowledge, I’ll be able to write more about the connection of service design to these various issues.

What a great field we designers are in today. We seem to like to use all facets of human knoweldge and capabilities: from century old psychology, to new theoretical ideas, to the more practical applications, to the use of kindergarten tools (pipe cleaners, markers, and playdough!), to using space-age innovative mindsets… all this knowledge and open-mindedness inform designs and ideas that have the possibility of affecting millions of experiences people have around the world each day. Oh, and as an added bonus, whatever we make or think of is usually pretty easy on the eyes (and brain) too. Pretty neat.

One Line of Service Design, part 2

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

Just a short update… I asked my mentor from this summer, Susan Spraragen (who is currently in Paris presenting our work on service blueprinting) what her service design one-liner would be. Here’s what she contributed:

Service design is about creating and taking decisive and deliberate actions that will promote, support, and sustain positive service experiences in order to strengthen provider-customer relationships.

I like the decisive and deliberate part. And especially the part about sustaining positive service experiences. Too often designers are asked to provide quick, band-aid solutions that may help in the short run; not provide solutions that will work in the long run.

The issue of sustainability is an interesting one. We’ve been discussing it a lot in my Designing for Management and Organizational Change class, in terms of how one would go about teaching/changing/designing an organization so that they can grow and succeed on their own without clinging on to a consultant.

This lead me to think about the issue of sustainability in service design. Especially in regards to my thesis project: how can I design a solution that will allow Children’s Hospital to continue thinking about sustaining the values (family-centered care, control, support) that I’m trying to enforce? Is a well-designed service or system enough to have a service provider convinced to keep practicing good service design? Or is there something more to getting someone clinched to always bettering their service offerings?

One Line of Service Design

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Jeff tagged me on this interesting activity… to keep it brief, Marc Fonteijn from 31Volts is starting an experiment to gather thoughts on how people would explain service design using only one line. The point is not necessarily to define service design , but provide examples that could shed light on what service design does. Marc’s one line was this:

When you have 2 coffee shops right next to each other, that each sell the same exact same coffee at the exact same price; Service Design is what makes you walk into the one and not the other.

And Jeff’s was this:

Service designers work with companies and governments to orchestrate their encounters with people.

There are so, so many service design one liners I could think of. But to continue, here’s one of mine:

Service design is not only what makes customers want to take part in a service, but it’s what makes them want to share the great moments they’ve had from a service with their friends and family (and the world, for us bloggers).

I guess there are two major parts to my one liner. First, the “want” part. Great services are those that you are a part of, not simply out of necessity, but out of desire. You know, the services you wouldn’t mind paying a little more for, just because it’s worth it. Second, the “sharing” bit. I suppose this part was partially inspired by my thesis project work at Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital. One of my major goals for the project is to design the service in such a way that, in light of their child being sick, the parents will still want to share the great time they had at the hospital. Great services are those that customers will advocate in the end. This advocating bit is also the last phase in Shelley Evenson’s model of the cycle of experience; she calls it “reverberating”, and I think that’s a pretty good word for it. I’ve tried some services just because so many people have talked about all the good things about them… that reverberation of positive words is something service providers aim for.

My one liner of course doesn’t really fully explain what service design is, but I find myself using it a lot when describing what I do to people who don’t have a design background.

I’m curious to see the results of this experiment. The people I want to tag don’t blog, but I’ll contact them and see if I can post their service design one liners here soon ;)

Faking it

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

I went to a chamber music performance last night (first one since the summer, sadly). The first piece they played was a Beethoven trio. Throughout the piece I couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t feeling very Beethoven to me. Even though stylistically they were playing it mostly Beethoven-ly. I’m not sure what it was that made me feel like it was a bit off. Perhaps the over exaggerated body gestures in odd places, or maybe the overall sound of the trio. Anyway, I didn’t think much of it until now, as I began to refine my thesis paper (which, if you need to be reminded, is on the possibilities of service design learning from the field of classical music).

I reread a section of my paper, where I talk about one of the roles of a performer in classical music as being able to reproduce the composer’s intentions with conviction, and paralleling this to service design, where one of the frontline employee’s job is to follow the original intents of the service provider. Any deviations from the intended service actions could lead to break in core service aspects (branding, etc). Imagine Disney theme park staff greeting you with monotone, gloomy welcomes. Just this simple deviation in behaviour could take away from Disney’s image of being the “happiest place on earth”.

Of course, staff can be trained so that they embody the service provider’s core values. But as I thought back to the performance last night, it makes me wonder: if you’re not really into the composer’s music, or if you don’t really believe in the service provider that you’re working for, is it possible to be trained so that you appear to be well versed in a composer’s style or a company’s values? In other words, is it possible to fake beliefs?

I ask myself this question because I realize now that it applied to my past as a classical musician. I was always a great Baroque and Romantic era performer. I love Baroque and Romantic era music. I listened to a lot of it growing up, I studied it extensively, and as a result I almost naturally gained a touch for that type of music. On the other hand, I could not for the life of me gain the same touch with Classical era music. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I listened to Mozart of Beethoven, my piano teachers would never tell me that my renditions of Classical era music were as good as my Baroque or Romantic ones. I know this had to do with the fact that I never liked Classical era music. And perhaps as a result, this showed in my performances in that I could never truly replicate the feel of a Classical composer, even though I tried “faking” it.

So bringing this back to services: can frontline employees be trained enough to appear like they embody everything that the company has to offer, or do you really need to have employees believe in what they’re doing to make a service truly successful? And most importantly, where is the border in which customers of a service begin to tell that there are disconnects between the employees and the company’s projected values which will affect their satisfaction with the company?

Doing research isn’t all about what you have planned; a lot of times it’s about what you don’t have planned

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

I think one of the best parts about doing research as a designer is our ability to adapt. Adaptation is such a crucial skill for a designer, not only longterm adaptations as project progress changes, but also on-the-fly, spontaneous changes while talking research participants.

I spent most of my afternoon at Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital today, as I finally got clearance to start my thesis project work. I had four hands-on design activities meticulously planned, designed, and crafted for families to do, and in my head I had an idea of what I wanted them to do, what I was going to say, and so on. When it came time to interview my first participant, it became obvious that there was no way any of my research activities were going to go as planned. My participant was in a chair holding her small baby, with tubes coming out of him in every which way, and the room was set up so that there was only room for me to sit across from her, with no tables, or any sort of furniture that could cater to any sort of design activity.

Luckily, I was familiar with the most important aspect of my design activities: the information that I wanted to find out from my research. I was prepared to brainstorm alternative ways to get this information without making it a boring interview session. I had my participant imagine being in different scenarios, I let her pretend for 10 small minutes that she had unlimited resources and money, and I had her picture what it would be like for new families coming into the hospital in a similar situation. The second family that I interviewed was in the same situation… all I got to do was to talk to them, but the father was so excited about imagining an ideal information-giving situation that he started designing in his head and telling me all about what they would’ve really liked, and how it could work, etc. While there is no substitute for handing my participants my laminated experience-cards that I made, or having them make little cards and creating their own welcome kit for other families, setting up scenarios and letting them play around and imagine in their heads did the trick almost just as well. Imagination is a powerful tool.

Contrast this to the many scientific tests I did as an undergrad, where everything followed a strict protocol. Sidestep this protocol in any fashion, and your results could be deemed scientifically invalid. Yes, scientific studies are important for a variety of reasons, but in design we embrace the fact that our research plays to the designer’s intent and whatever they want to do to get information.

Of course, adaptation really only works if the designer is prepared enough and competent (and maybe creative?) enough to be able to think on the spot, otherwise it could be pretty tricky. I am by no means perfect, but I think the increasing number of projects that I’ve done, and the way that we are thrown into unfamiliar situations in our projects makes it a lot easier now to be comfortable making things up on the go, and getting just as good of information as we would’ve gotten had we been able to stick with the original plan. Original plans are good, but when faced with an unexpected situation, so are the fifty other ones that are floating around in your head, waiting to be given a chance ;)