Service Design Sprints: Merging customer experience with agile

Agile development is the new norm to innovate quicker and smarter in a digital world. But clients now want to go further, to design great customer propositions that get adopted, and which provide great customer experiences across all channels. To meet this challenge, Livework has developed the Service Design Sprint. This approach—inspired by Google’s own—marries the best of agile delivery with the best of service design, to provide organisations with a quick way to get great, low-risk service innovations to market.

Today, Digital Transformation is all about efficiency and the digital experience. The next challenge will be creating truly great customer relationships.

Recent Executive Vice President , Financial Sector client

I want service design and I want it fast

Digital transformation has been having a profound effect on how organisations design, develop and deliver products and services. Agile methods—in which the product development cycle is both compressed and intensified—has seen wide adoption.  However, as with any wave of change, it’s having unintended consequences.

Here are two things we’re seeing:
  1. Digital transformation mostly involves moving customer demand to self-serve channels, as it’s cheaper for the service provider that way. However, the current push for screen-based self-service interactions has put relationships with customers at risk. Previously face-to-face and human interactions are often replaced with automation or self-service. When these changes aren’t properly thought through, it’s basically outsourcing a load of effort to the customer. And don’t think customers don’t know that.
  2. Agile delivery gets stuff to market fast, but in many cases, the stuff being produced isn’t getting adopted as planned. This is usually down to the fact that agile teams don’t spend (or aren’t allowed to spend) enough time developing a deep, authentic understanding of customer needs, and then developing a compelling service proposition customers will want to hire. All too often agile is creating the wrong thing quickly.

So it’s no surprise that in some sectors, an unintended consequence of agile digital transformation is the erosion of any brand relationship and increased customer churn. If the service proposition isn’t great, the experience of using the service is poor, and you have no deeper relationship anymore, why stay?

We have service providers coming to us with these symptoms. They’re realising that agile digital transformation on its own is not the answer. What they need is three things:
  1. A service proposition that the customer wants to hire.
  2. A service experience that is coherent, easy to use and integrated across channels, and over time.
  3. A quick way to design and build these and get them to market.
Our solution to this challenge is the Service Design Sprint model, which we’ve successfully delivered with clients such as the BBC, Gucci, Telia, AMEX and Gjensidige. Sometimes we do Service Design Sprints in a week, sometimes over six weeks. The model is flexible.
Here are some of the key facets of a Livework Service Design Sprint:
  • We define the problem: We clearly define the problem and solution assumptions. This is where we often ask what customer behaviour you’re assuming you’ll get from an app or web service.
  • It’s built on an understanding of customer behaviour and needs:  We work to develop an authentic understanding of customer needs in relation to the problem area. We’ll leverage everything you already have, and if needed do the required primary research to fill any gaps.
  • We accelerate the design process: With the foundations in place, we sprint through ideation, prototyping and testing with real people, to either prove or disprove our assumptions.
  • We co-locate and share knowledge with you: We work with your multidisciplinary teams, so the work can progress at speed, achieve alignment and build competency.
Here are two examples of how we’ve been working with Service Design Sprints internationally.
BBC, Service Design Sprint

The Nordic insurer

Livework was recently asked by one of Northern Europe’s biggest and oldest insurance companies to plan, facilitate and evaluate a Service Design Sprint, from insights and ideation to tested prototypes and scenarios with real customers.
Most people don’t think about insurance until something goes wrong.
And when the unthinkable does happen, our insurance company suddenly becomes one of the most important things in our world. We reach out in the quickest way possible requiring immediate assistance, often without much knowledge of the small print and cross our fingers that we’re covered.
In these types of situations providing customers with functional and reliable solutions is not enough, especially when we’re talking about health insurance claims, which are often submitted in an emotionally charged state. As a customer, we expect and need more from our insurance company. But all too often the emotional and human qualities of a service are lost to the short term gains digitalisation has to offer. This is where our insights into insurance and the service design sprint approach came in handy.

A service design sprint shouldn’t be just an one-off-stunt. This approach will become an integrated part of how we develop products and services on an ongoing basis.

Director for claims

Furthermore, our client learned that when converting strategy into action, its best done through the people and working culture, rather than relying on the more traditional approach of manuals and guidelines.

The British broadcaster

The BBC Knowledge team provides internal services to help BBC employees be the most creative and productive they can be. Inspired by the Google model, the team had been playing with the idea of sprints for a while, to speed their creative problem-solving process and get new high quality services in front of staff more quickly.
However their early efforts had frustrated them. The digital sprint focus was too narrow for the multichannel service propositions they were working with and they often lost the big picture. 
We helped them to take their initial sprint model and turn it into a fully-functioning service design sprint model.
“We liked the focus that sprints gave us but also wanted a way to track and design the overall experiences we were creating. The solution came when we started to build ‘service design’ thinking into our sprint process. Combining service design and design sprints has lots of advantages. Service design forces us to think in terms of context – both user needs and a service as a whole. It helps us to connect things and to better judge the feasibility and plausibility of the experiences we design. It focuses on gaining insights, so that at the end of the sprint project we don’t just emerge with lots of ideas that have been prototyped and tested. They are also mapped, documented and have contributed to our understanding of the audience.” – Dan Ramsden, Creative Director, User Experience Architecture, BBC
Dan Ramsden has written about the experience on his BBC blog;
BBC, Service Design Sprint using the Crazy Eight tool

When to use the Sprint Service Design approach?

  • When previous innovations haven’t been adopted as expected
  • When you’re under pressure to get services to market quickly
  • When you’re trying to re-establish a branded relationship in the context of digital-first servicing
  • When your customer’s multichannel experience is incoherent and complex
  • When you can commit key team members to work in this intense way
The Service Design Sprint model marries the best of agile delivery with the best of service design, to provide organisations with a quick way to get great new service innovations to market.
Interested? Get in touch! 

This article is inspired by GV Design Sprint.

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