A couple of years ago I worked with a service design studio in Belgium. I’d come on board as a Sociologist / Service Designer and was immediately set to work. New to this kind of combination and Sociologists, they let me identify where I might add value. And new to their studio process, I quickly sought to identify a way to fit into everything they were doing, but ultimately to add what I considered a very necessary aspect.
The human element.
I did so based on the understanding that businesses are grounded in, and at the mercy of, the human experience, whether they realise it as clearly as that or not. In all kinds of ways, businesses seek to anticipate the human response and deliver the added value.
My first project with the studio involved digitising a service with a very reluctant consumer. Reluctant that is, if you didn’t understand what the buy-in factor might be for people using the service. I set to work unearthing as much information as I could to understand the mindset, the barriers, the drivers to discover what the opportunities might be. For two days I disappeared into forums, the classic ones such as Mumsnet (always a great source of information) to the more irregular ones where discussions of the service were being had. I ploughed through heated discussions, responses, questions and advice, emerging with key themes across all consumers, young to old and every age category in between.
At every opportunity I had conversations with service users cross checking my findings for validity. Each conversation validated what I gleamed from that initial painstaking research. But not at all unsurprising, given that such forums provide an unbiased, non-artificial setting. People openly chat, they genuinely want to help each other, and therefore share experiences and tell members what they think, what they feel and why.
Raw data in its purest form.
Formulating a digital response would mean, in the very least, using there digital element to resolve the current problems to create buy in across consumer groups. Meanwhile the team cracked out their process. By the end of which they understood the functional steps taken across the customer journey, the companies backend processes, and to some extent the emotional highs and lows. But not the whys. And not enough to change the consumer mindset from anti-digitisation to embracing it.
These past few weeks I find myself immersed into a similar scenario. Working with one of the major consultancy groups who have their process but little time given to turn projects around. The reality is, at least for me, that we will end up with solutions that will feel, in theory and captured in stylish diagrams, magnificent. But which essentially lack the human element, the hidden reality that comprises the real value for most consumers.
Just as Uber will have sounded wonderful, in theory.
Solutions that lack the human element or fail to reflect the reality of life and the lived experience in real time, can’t promise to deliver a sustainable solution. Eighteen minutes dedicated to understand the experience across consumer groups will definitely hint at something, but I think as most will anticipate, hardly enough to deliver something that users will find useful over time.