The global shift towards a service-based economy has prompted many organisations to rethink their operations and strategy from a service-centric perspective, with a particular focus on customer needs. The customer-centric approach has become a buzzword and one of the most buzzed-about labels in the services market, but are service providers really looking for the needs and perspective of their customers, or are they falling into the trap of pretence?
As the awareness and value of service design in the marketplace grows, more and more people are talking about 'service experiences', 'designing for service experiences', 'delivering service experiences'. But what does a service experience consist of? How do we design the 'lifecycle' of a service?
Designing a service system requires the input of all stakeholders, including those supporting the service provider's organisational functions, as well as external stakeholders such as user and system support groups - i.e. it can be said that multiple stakeholders' recognition and input is required for service design decision-making.
When we say 'life cycle', we are talking about an end-to-end series of 'events' or 'phases' that are affected by the passage of time, just as much as our own lives are.
For services, there are two types of lifecycle to understand: the first is the lifecycle of the customer's service experience. This is the customer's overall experience of the service, from the moment they are introduced to the service, through the ongoing experience, to the end of the service and the subsequent customer impression.
Take ISPs, for example. In the past (probably a very long time ago), the customer did not know about that company or the service they provided. Through marketing, or other channels, or even necessity, he somehow found them, signed a service contract and now gets internet regularly (until he decides he can't stand their customer service any longer and quits -ed.). This is the full, end-to-end lifecycle of the service experience.
However, there is another lifecycle that matters as much in service design as the end-to-end lifecycle mentioned above, and which is not often discussed even in design circles - but is in fact the way most companies approach their services. This is the service development lifecycle. It's the lifecycle of creating, launching, supporting and terminating a service. The activities that make up the day-to-day work of the people in the service provider's organisation and reflect the business stage the service itself is at (is it a new service? A mature service? A declining service?). An understanding of these aspects is essential for any improvement action to be taken in the service design working environment.
No priority, both life cycles count
It is necessary to understand how the service development lifecycle influences the customer experience lifecycle, as without its implementation it is not possible to achieve a lasting, sustainable, positive change in the service process. While designing, it is also necessary to be able to understand and apply the "language of business", given that in this case it is the "language" of service development, it is necessary to understand how costing and pricing is developed, how order forms are modified, how the company manages customer service processes, and how the organisation manages change within the service. If we focus only on the customer experience, we will not understand how business processes relate to customer experiences and potential problems, or how these can be addressed.
Let's break it down further!
We've already outlined customer processes, but if we start from our own experience, we can see that there are several steps and decision points that arise when using a service.
Design design design experience shows that all service experiences can be attributed to these phases, thus providing a key to how to design and improve the service experience. Although the lifecycle has been presented in a linear fashion, there are many examples where the phases of this process are experienced by users in a different order. For example: a long-time returning customer vs. a first-time customer, or a customer who enters the service process during normal usage (e.g. new employees are required to use the "system" at their workplace), so they do not go through the steps prior to the experience, and the list goes on. Against the diversity of experiences, these phases set the tone for the steps along which to talk about how people experience our services.
Customer need and business need
The customer is active in all phases of using the service, i.e. they have needs, and the service provider tries to get the customer to be active in all phases. Although this interaction appears coherent, customer and business needs are not always in line, and this can be a source of customer pain and frustration. For this reason, it is necessary to emphasise that by breaking down the phases of the service experience lifecycle, these needs can be better planned, identified and met. This type of vision of service can lead to the establishment of useful guiding principles. For example, in phases when a customer is considering a service or at the point of entry and exit, sharing useful information can help them make or keep a decision.
It can also encourage and give businesses the tools to develop new processes, principles and practices to better support all phases of the customer experience and the continuous improvement curve of their own service.
Aligning service delivery
By identifying the customer's expectations at different stages of the lifecycle, the service organisation can involve all its departments in the development process, directly linking them throughout a process.
During the lifecycle of a typical end-to-end service experience, dozens of areas of the business may be involved in the delivery of the service.
For many organisations, a key realisation is the need to coordinate design and development by involving cross-functional processes, thereby involving more and more people from different areas of the organisation.
What are the results of aligning service lifecycles?