Service Design for the Internet of Things era

Last post we talked about what Service Design is. Emerging, user-centred, multi-disciplinary, multi-platform. It lives within ecosystems and strives for successful experiences. It’s pretty hard to pin down, but it’s increasingly important. So why does service design matter to businesses and brands now more than ever? Here’s four reasons:

1. Digitally-enabled services are becoming ubiquitous

We’ve all heard of the Internet of Things, or Ubiquitous Computing right? Both terms refer to the explosion of connectivity in our everyday devices. Everything we own is getting networked, from your TV to your car to your bathroom scale.   All that connectivity is cool, but it’s just the hardware — those digital features manifest as services, which require user interfaces and design.

2. Services and products need to exist in ecosystems, and designed and thought in terms of a holistic brand experience

Cool, so we just design those services like we’ve always done for sites and apps, right? The tricky thing about products and services these days compared to the websites we built in 2000 is that they need to exist not as isolated experiences, but as part of a much larger digital ecosystem. An airliner’s kiosk system needs to interact seamlessly with its mobile app, and an in-store digital retail experience should work seamlessly with the iPad shopping app. They are all touchpoints in an overall customer experience of the brand.

3. Well designed services are marketing differentiators, a reason people will buy your product

Nike+ is a reason to buy Nike running shoes. Wiithings is a reason to buy their bathroom scale. Twelpforce may or may not be a reason to frequent Best Buy. Digital services are increasingly being added onto the products we used, not as an afterthought or nice to have, but as a core part of the product proposition. They are a reason you’d buy product x over product y, and for that reason their design becomes business critical.

4. Poorly designed services can destroy customer satisfaction and recommendation

When a service is core to your product experience, and you get it wrong, the results are ugly. Ford plunged from 5th to 23rd in the 2011 JD Power & Associates satisfaction survey, with the primary culprit being identified the MyFord Touch in-car telematics system. Ford aren’t just selling a car, they are selling a driving experience. And the service that lived at the heart of that experience wasn’t good enough, resulting in a vocally disgruntled customer base. The service layer has become as important as the product itself.

Summary = Products companies are becoming service companies, and ultimately experience companies

All of which brings us to the last point. There tended to be a quite clear division for many companies between product companies (like Fiat or Samsung) and service companies (like say Geek Squad). Except now your Fiat comes with EcoDrive, and your Samsung TV comes with an appstore. These companies that are traditionally products companies are now becoming service companies, which requires a different mindset and approach, and different skillsets for success. If you get it right, it can be a major market differentiator. And as you can see in the case of Ford, if you get it wrong, it has very big consequences. The ubiquitous computing era is here, it’s up to us to design services and experiences to make the most of it.

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    who do you see as leaders in the service design space? national/global? adaptivepath? frog? IDEO? AKQA ?

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