A Collision of Intentions, Thoughts and Avatars: that's my current definition of a service.
The idea that an organization can package and delivery a service (or value) is industrial, scientific, old-fashioned and does not come close to explain the dynamics that take place in the real world. That is one of the fundamental points I discuss in my new book, The Service Startup, on which I will elaborate in this post.
But, first, hi again!
I've been gone for a while to work on my new book, but now I'm back and intend to keep my posts here flowing.
It has been exciting times here at Livework with wicked projects and our team winning the Design Team of the Year award at the Design Week Awards 2014. Personally, I also served as the Jury Captain of the Service Design category of the Core77 Design Awards. We went through exciting entries and will be announcing the honorees soon.
Back to my point. The truth is, there are no services—only journeys. And a journey is not the same as the sum of all the processes the user interacts with. A journey is a story that lives inside the users' minds. As such it cannot be "delivered," it can only be influenced and co-created.
Take a moment to think about the last service interaction you had. Ok, I'm pretty sure that what came to your mind was a story, not a series of technical process specifications or track numbers. Which puts service designers in the position of memory weavers.
A memory is an event, a residual piece of information that is stamped in the mind with the help of emotions. The greater the emotion associated with the event, the more likely the memory will endure the test of time.
To design a service is to design a journey and this ultimately means the design of moments in people's lives. We have the need to connect emotionally with everything we encounter in life. This is imperative, and comes hardwired in our brain. Some connections are commonplace and pass unnoticed, while others define our mood, the way we perceive others and ourselves and, most importantly, the way we will remember the experience itself. This ability for people to connect emotionally with everyday things is called anthropomorphism, the attribution of human characteristics and behaviors to a thing or a process, and this topic is very dear to designers. Anthropomorphism is the doorway to connect emotionally with people and, the quest to positively influence this mental process is the quest of design itself.
At Livework, we call it Service Envy. Service Envy is the quest, undertaken by our designers, to create services that are more desirable than products. By creating service journeys that enable people to feel smarter, safer and more attractive, we believe the crave to own things will gradually give space to the ability to access them whenever needed.
Thinking of services like that has the power to make us wonder how many opportunities have we been missing by treating services using the same push products, "make and sell," mindset that we've inherited from the decades following the Industrial Revolution.
Because of its characteristics, the design of a new service is so difficult it makes new product development looks like child's play. That sentence was written in 1977, and no, it is not mine—I was born that very same year. This phrase belongs to Lynn Shostack, former VP of Citibank, and it was published on the Journal of Marketing. In it, Lynn puts the old "make and sell" industrial logic in check when she affirms that the same mentality used to market products like the Tide soap, cannot be successfully applied to a service economy.
Today, the fact that we live in a service economy is common sense. At least I like to think so. That said, the old and smoky "make and sell" logic is alive and kicking, chomping at profits, crashing motivation at work, delivering crappy experiences and taking a heavy, unsustainable toll on our planet.
Services are ecosystems. A service is not the same as the interactions it contains, nor is it the transactional processes behind it. Truly, a service performance is better defined by a collision between the user behavior, the execution plan (process) and provider performance. Human elements like anxiety, undiscovered needs, irritability, belonging, mental models and value formation patterns play an immensely important role in how people choose, or don't, to adopt or adhere to a service.
However, when strategists treat services with the same logic they use in dealing with products, they bypass this humanized mindset and, by extension they ignore what I call the users' "learn, use and remember" journeys. And that can be catastrophic to a service performance. A service that is impossible to learn, difficult to use or does not have enough flavor to be remembered (or worse, triggers bad memories), has marginal chances to survive when dealing with the overly informed and more educated customer of today.
This is an important wake up call, one to be taken seriously by businesses of any size, but most importantly, this thinking needs to be native to startups. They are the ones born with a "no legacy" license that allows them to keep questioning the status quo. And it is utterly dangerous and non-sense to build the new using old logic, "make and sell," building blocks.