Using sticky notes to map out the membership model, member experience and staff experience at a SERVICISE Workshop

Services and simultaneousness

Services and simultaneousness



In Why Service Design? I shared five characteristics that are generally used to describe service design; co-creative, user-oriented, sequencing, evidencing and holistic. I’ve been using these characteristics to explain to people what I do and why it is important. I’ve had some success but I’ve noticed that the explanation is a little too academic, not easily accessible.

Today I read Designing the Organization from Service Design Perspective by Mario Sakata. I really like Sakata’s explanation of service design as;

Communication design between customers and a service provider as they interact through points of contact.

He’s right, and this is the more human explanation of service design that I’ve been seeking.

What are services?

While we already have an understanding of the characteristics that explain service design, it makes sense to take a step back and understand what a service is. Sakata outlines three characteristics common to services. Services are:

  1. Intangible; not physical
  2. Simultaneous; delivery and consumption occur at the same time
  3. Heterogeneous; different for every person involved

I think these characteristics are very helpful when understanding why services are such an important part of what your organisation does. Sakata goes further writing:

Service exists between a service provider and each and every customer meaning it is a company’s intangible asset…the approach of efficiently utilizing this asset is service design.

Yes. Get your service right and the value of this intangible asset grows for your customers and the people within your organisation.

Service design’s simultaneous considerations

In a recent SERVICISE Workshop with a local performing arts organisation, we delved into the intricacies of their membership model. We were attempting to find ways of increasing emotional engagement in the organisation. We also aimed to improve accessibility to performance workshops. We mapped out the journey of becoming and remaining a paying member and the simultaneous journey of staff administering that membership. The benefits and characteristics of the membership model were complicated. In addition, the important information about membership was communicated inconsistently across multiple channels. We identified the many points of contact, mapped these out over time and quickly identified how to improve the clarity of information and the mode of communication.

Services and simultaneousness - using sticky notes to map out the membership model, member experience and staff experience at a SERVICISE Workshop

One clear benefit emerged. Improving the clarity of the membership model and communicating more clearly would simultaneously improve the experience of the membership service for the paying members and staff. Paying members would more easily understand the benefits of membership and know when and how much they were required to pay. At the same time, staff members would more easily administer the membership model because the model was clearer. And this is precisely the aim of service design.

I disagree with Sakata’s assertion that: “once service takes its desirable form…attention should then be given to improving the experience on the provider side.” Good service design considers both the customer’s experience and service provider’s experience simultaneously – not one after the other.


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