Interview with Thomas Schönweitz

Thomas Schönweitz is the German representative of the Service Design Network and founder & Managing Partner at Whitespring. We had the pleasure to ask him a few questions about service design - and he kindly shared some interesting insights!

NEXT Berlin: Why does service design matter for companies?

Thomas Schönweitz: 80% of all companies say they provide great customer service, but only 8% of their clients agree (Closing the delivery gap, Bain & Company, 2005) and 82% of customers end their relationship with a company because of a bad experience (Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum 2012).

The times where companies could push any product into the market and know that customers would buy them are over. Social Media and word of mouth have created informed, decision-making customers and a fierce competition with near-identical products from outsourced mass production.

The key to survival is to distinguish your company and brand from the rest. We went from mass-customization of raw materials in order to create products in the 19th century to the mass-customization of products in the mid 20th century to the creation of a massive service industry with over 70% of the GDP by the end of the 20th century.

But these services are more and more identical and lacking individuality – what’s the difference between your utility company and your competitor for example?

Service design solves this dilemma by creating meaningful experiences for the user, developing new revenue streams for companies and increasing customer loyalty and satisfaction. Service design is at the centre of feasibility, desirability and viability of a service.

Why is a strong service design network so important?

Service design is a young, open and interdisciplinary field. We work and develop solutions with professionals from different fields every day. This ensures that we keep an open mind and look well into the future.

Having a broad network of professionals is essential, as you need experts on different topics to solve the challenges at hand. Just like a football coach, a service designer assembles a good team consisting of specialists with unique skill sets – Forwards, Defense, Goalie – not one player can act as an expert in all areas.

What is the status quo of service design in Germany / Europe?

Even though service design has been around for several years – some argue several decades – it is still a very young but rapidly growing field in Germany. Due to the high involvement of customers, employees and other stakeholders, as well as a prototypical approach, success rates are very high and costs are very low. This makes it an ideal approach for small and medium sizes businesses as well.

What are the benefits for organisations?

Due to the inclusion of all parties that are involved in providing the service, additionally to the creation of a USP, the company creates increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, higher employee satisfaction and will embed a culture of innovation into the company that makes it more resilient to future changes of market conditions.

Service design – What’s next?

The focus of service design in the past was very much on the customer. At Whitespring, we like to extend that focus to the people providing the service, the employees. Looking at the cost that occur through recruitment, HR departments, assessment centers, training, equipment, a loss of an employee can result in a significant setback for a company. And that does not include the costs or losses that arise if employees take projects or even the entire client with them as they leave. At Whitespring we create services that increase employee satisfaction and retention, reducing the costs of the loss of an employee, keeping knowhow, projects and clients in house.

Thank you for the interview, Mr. Schönweitz!

Thomas Schönweitz is founder and Managing Partner of Whitespring Service Design. He is a lecturer for service design at the HfG Schwäbisch Gmünd and Hochschule Hof and the German Representative for the Service Design Network International. He is conference chair of the Service Design Network Germany Conference and was a host to the Munich Global Service Jam. He is EXIST Startup Coach for Business Development and Marketing and co-organizer and coach of the Munich Startup Accelerator.