Guest post by Tiffany Chu, Continuum.
After lunch, we settled back into our seats for a talk titled "Digital Service Design: Lessons from the Cloud." It was not, in fact, another rehash of cloud computing, but instead a specific point of view on the nuances of service design within the digital realm, presented by Monica Bueno, a principal at Continuum.
The first lesson Bueno proposed was to rethink the role of staff—a surprising, not-entirely-intuitive perspective for the digital domain. She offered the example of TD Bank, who has ramped up their deployment of digital banking tools in order to free up their staff to be much more customer service-oriented and do what humans do best. She also mentioned the latest Zappos commercials, whose ironic humor highlights relationship-building between staff and consumers—an external ad campaign which is actually underlined on the inside with incentive programs for longer call times and ensuring every employee is trained in the call center.
Another lesson from Bueno was to deliver a consistent experience between online and offline initiatives—something that 'break into the cloud' companies often neglect. Weight Watchers was referenced as exemplifying this marriage of digital and nondigital, making sure to streamline their online weight loss 'touchpoints' (service design jargon here) with people's everyday, physical experience.
Bueno mentioned Nike Plus, Gatorade, and Nordstrom's as other conspicuous examples of brands that have managed to embrace co-creation (more service design speak) between themselves and their customers, and successfully straddle digital and nondigital. She even threw up a diagram of Citi's homepage, and pointed out how a visitor could see an invisible chart of the company's internal organizational structure on the homepage—probably inadvertent on Citi's part, but definitely not the right face to be showing and serving your customer.
What was most provocative about the presentation was not the gallery of lessons and examples that Bueno walked us through, but the question of how we need to balance design education, organizational innovation, and systems management within the umbrella of service design. "Are we even equipped yet to have this discussion? What is the role of a service designer?"
When design firms work with clients, there is always an element of training. Clients always ask, "Can you do this project for us, but also teach us design thinking at the same time?" Taking this a step further, Bueno sees the need for pushing service design skills up the ladder. "We need to merge the business tools of management consulting with the visual, research, and storytelling tools of service design—and that's the power."