Produced by Haallas, Parempaa bittiä (‘Better bits’) is a podcast that examines design, digital service design, and UX design from different perspectives. The podcast itself is in Finnish, but the episode highlights are translated into English and available in a blog format.
In the second episode of the Parempaa bittiä (‘Better Bits’) podcast, we talked to service design expert Piia Innanen. Piia is the service designer, Design Sprint facilitator, and CEO of her own company, Palvelumuotoilu Palo. Previously, she was a Principal UX Designer at Nokia, among other positions.
In this episode, Matti Linna, Head of Design at Haallas, talks with Piia about the human-centric development of services and business, in which the service user plays an active role.
From a trend to a new standard
In the past few years, there has been a lot of hype around service design in IT and other industries that produce services. Service design became a topic in the late 2000s, and the methods related to it were not widely known even in 2013 when Piia’s service design company Palvelumuotoilu Palo started operating.
“I was asked, ‘service what?’ The ‘design’ part confused people,” Piia reminisces.
She says the sector has been booming in the last five years, and sometimes things have accelerated up to a hype. However, the greatest hype has started to settle, and service design has become more commonplace, which Piia sees as a good thing.
Piia believes that one reason for service design’s popularity is that it is approachable.
“Service design is equally easy to approach whether your background is in marketing, engineering, or humanities,” she says.
Another key factor may be the encouraging case studies: large Finnish companies that have led the way and shown that design is worth the investment.
Third, Piia believes that the secret to service design’s popularity in Finland is the culture of equality.
“Co-creation and the equality of people’s views are at the heart of service design. Anyone can bring up a good idea for others to build on.”
In fact, service design has become more commonplace rather quickly, and its methods have become a default in certain types of development.
Insight from the customer
Service design is neither a single workshop nor a tool but a comprehensive process; Piia summarises the concept. Each stage has its own purpose, and once you identify it, you will be able to choose the right methods for specific stages.
Human-centredness is essential with service design, and everything starts with co-creation. Interviewing the customer is an established and well-proven method.
“Talking to the customer gives you extra insight. Even if you’re unable to do it at a large scale, you should still do it at a small scale,” Piia encourages everyone.
Another one of Piia’s favourite methods is describing the service path. In digital services, in particular, illustrating the service path is an important tool. You should also look at the example of successful competitors.
“Knowing the competitive field is key, and even if the customer does not have competitors, there will always be reference services. Reinventing the wheel is a waste of time,” Piia states.
Service design changes the conventional model of development in that the groundwork is laid carefully beforehand. You should always study the customer’s experience and problems before starting development. At worst, you may be pouring extensive time, money and resources into a project just to see that you have been building something no one is interested in, or no one benefits from.
Piia points out that digital applications should not be developed before surveying the potential social problems.
“You should start by looking at what users are used to, what they like, and what they recommend,” she says.
What is the difference between service design and UX design?
But how does service design differ from user experience (UX) design? Piia summarises this by saying that service design does not focus on the design of a digital point of contact; instead, it looks at the customer’s experience of the service as a whole.
“A service designer does not need to be a good UX designer since that’s their field of expertise that you would have to learn and practise, in addition to service design,” Piia says.
“If you are studying to become a service designer, you may not become a great UX designer at the same time. It may be easier the other way around, since UX designers’ models of thinking are often required of service designers, too.”
The topics are often connected to the same area, and the experts in both fields aim to provide good customer, user, and service experiences. Sometimes, however, the roles of the service designer and UX designer are clearly distinguishable.
“Last year, I worked with the Deaconess Foundation to improve their orientation process. Orientation at work often involves digital software and applications. We paid some attention to them, too, but our work focused on the interaction between people. All we designed and produced were matters related to personal interaction that were seen as challenging in that case.”
The concept of usability also becomes blurred when you look at it from the perspectives of both a service designer and a UX designer. In this case, the customer experience becomes the central element, and ease of use and usability mean completely different things.
“Understanding the context is especially important when designing digital services: will the customer be walking while using the specific device or application, or will they be driving a car, and at which point will they need specific features,” Piia explains.
Understanding the context is at the heart of UX design. You have to understand the restrictions and requirements of the context and accept that what may feel functional on paper may not be that in practice. According to Piia, matters of opinion should always be resolved through context testing.
Attitude sets successful people apart
The service design process should always be tied to the development process. Through continuous assessment, such as measuring, you can always keep up-to-date on where the user experience may be weakened and where there is potential.
The service design process is constantly adapting to the customer’s needs. It is the basis of either developing new services or refining existing ones to make them more functional.
“It’s essential for all organisations to think about how to bring the service design process into their operations. It should be a little ahead of the implementation so that things can be produced in real-time.”
One key philosophy in the elasticity of the service design process is quick reactions and minimising all delays and procrastination. Piia says that the design sprint developed at Google is an excellent example of such a method. The basic idea is that a group of different experts are in the same room for five days to produce ideas, solution proposals and a testable prototype. The process results in a good basic understanding of the next steps.
“The best thing about a design sprint is that it commits people to quick testing. Everyone is always talking about quick and agile testing, but that never happens in everyday work. In a design sprint, you make it happen.”
Piia says that both learning and an interest in the process are at the core of a successful service design process.
“Those who succeed and do things well are always looking to do even better. That’s when you see that the organisation itself is customer-centric. Always looking for areas for improvement and not settling for the status quo”.
Piia summarises that attitude sets successful people apart from others.
“Just email us and drop by for coffee, and we can discuss service design. It’s our favourite topic!”
Piia Innanen works at the company she founded, Palvelumuotoilu Palo, as a service designer, Design Sprint facilitator, and CEO. Piia is an expert in user-oriented design with more than 25 years of experience. Prior to founding Palo, Piia worked at Nokia as a Principal UX Designer among other positions. Although Piia has often held positions involving the management of things and people, she feels above all that she is an easily inspiring thinker, designer, and implementer.
The podcast is hosted by Haallas' Head of Design Matti Linna. Matti has more than ten years of experience in UX design and service design in various industries in the public and private sectors. At the heart of Matti's design thinking are insights gained through in-depth user and customer understanding that can be used to create useful, functional, and easy-to-use digital services. In his free time, Matti can be met at the Crossfit Hall or on the mountain bike trail.