Service Design – Are we still talking about this?

When it comes to service design, Chris Downs really is kind of a behemoth. He founded the world’s first service design agency back in 2001, and it’s still a concept close to his heart. This is why, at NEXT Service Design, we charged him with the task of setting the stage by introducing the audience to what the event was all about.

It transpires that he not only still believes in service design after all these years – but he also is a strong believer in data, another topic that’s quite familiar to NEXT attendees. (Just for the record, we had a whole conference on Big Data back in May 2011. Watch the videos here.) Chris even has a Twitter handle that speaks volumes about this belief.

Adam did a tremendous job of liveblogging what Chris said during his keynote, so there is no need to duplicate that. But there are a few observations that came to mind while rewatching his talk:

  • First, he strongly encourages departing from the old-school “waterfall” model of project process. It has many downsides, not the least being that – at every new project stage – the work of earlier stages tends to be thrown away. Instead, Chris opts for the “Build-Measure-Learn” cycle that has been popularised by Eric Ries.
  • Second, to implement this cycle, the web has provided us with a bunch of inexpensive and easy-to-use tools. We no longer need to rely on costly focus groups and other user research that tends to disconnect us from the people we obtained the insights from in the first place. Instead, we can just look at a variety of dashboards that tell us in real-time what our users do and like.
  • Third, the web also changes the whole logic of brands, products and services. The once-dominant role of marketing and communications shrinks. It gives way to a new, integrated view. Brands are no longer reliant on media, they can use technology as their platform. And this has huge consequences for the relationships between brands and consumers.

By the way, Chris hates the word ‘consumer’. He doesn’t want to be called a consumer, because the word carried the implications of being passive and dumb. Instead, he wants to live in a world where he feels valued and useful. And this means we are not talking about point of view anymore, but about purpose. We are talking about values on a much deeper level than marketing and communications were ever able to.

Thanks to the web, the world is now a very different place to what it was just a few years ago.