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    Arne van Oosterom's Posts - WENOVSKI design thinkers network

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    Monday, March 3, 2008

    Service Design: It's a dirty job...

    I've been working as a service design consultant at DesignThinkers for some time and I must tell you that service design is not always glamourous. I'm sorry to disappoint you. Service design is about getting your hands dirty. Real dirty. If you are not prepared to go all the way down the long and dark sewers of big organizations, you are not doing the work you supposed to do.

    Without compromising a service design project is never easy. Great service is all about building relationships. And in the real world a good relationship starts by getting to know and respect each-other. Listen, learn and know when to compromise. Being vulnerable. Trusting the other person and taking changes. So if you are in the business of delivering a service to your costumer, and you want to join the service revolution, this is the task at hand.

    But hold on! Even between the best of friends this is not always easy. Trusting takes a lot of guts. And you must be very strong and secure to really open up and let yourself be vulnerable. Being defensive seems almost second nature to most organizations. And, as a rule, people don't trust big organizations.

    So how can large corporations and public organizations design the perfect service-experience? They can't. It is simply not possible. Big organizations, by default, don't care about their costumers. Costumers are just a means to an end. And superficial marketing methods, simplifying reality beyond recognition is the the path of least resistance.

    It is not that companies and public organizations are evil. But when you get down to the nitty gritty, organization are no more than a complex combination of ordinary people with their own ordinary wants and needs. Good and bad. Usually there is no big story. No vision or higher purpose guiding management and employees while making decisions. Just a lot of personal agenda's.

    And maybe that's the beauty of it. Organizations are not made out of buildings, furniture and computers but from people like you and me. People with all the usual problems a human being has to deal with. Being truly (truly) concerned about the personal happiness of their customers is an unrealistic demand. And we al know this. Most of us have jobs and we don't really (really) care. And the companies we work for don't really (really) care about us either.

    As a service designer I don't let this spoil my fun. This is reality and service designers must practice what they preach: embraces the beautiful complexity called live.

    This is why service design starts deep inside the bowels of the organization. As a service design consultant you must understand the anatomy and psychology of the company you work for. You'll have to know it's limitations and work with them. Push the right buttons. Persuade, guide and fight for what you believe in. Get management involved permanently, empower front office, create short feedback loops. Then raise the gates, open the doors, lower the bridge and give costumers access to the heart of the organization.

    It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

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