By Julie McManus
A consideration of Service Design is important when it comes to getting the most out of a planned capital investment. It's also important when the service needs improvement in the gaps between major investments of infrastructure investment. If you can't move the walls or tear out the IT platform you can still redesign the service experience.
My local generic Express store was closed for the day on a Saturday. There were builders in to refit parts of the store - particularly the area around the till queue which has been bothering me for 2 years.
Previously you could only enter and leave the tills from one direction - meaning you had to wait while people left with their bags before getting to a vacant till, as cashiers loudly shout 'next customer please'. Grumpy inner monologue says, I can see you're available but I can't get to you without pushing past the guy with his bags and me with my basket. I don't want to have to push past him; I might break my eggs, or his.
If the till area had been considered previously, a whole day of business would not need to have been lost. How many stores around London, or the country, also had to lose a day of business?
Similarly, the floating Oyster card readers have finally removed the from the platforms at London Bridge station - friends from out of town always try to tap out at them until they're hustled along to the card readers at the barriers so they don't get charged twice.
Surely the cost of installing the initial Oyster readers in the wrong place could have been avoided - at how many stations around London did this happen, how many excess signs were produced? How many hours of installation time charged?
These examples are nuggets of daily wisdoms in seeing how much initial design of services, spaces and wayfinding matter in terms of getting it right.
There are opportunities here to be recognised around investment in a service experience, both before and after capital is invested in infrastructure or physical touchpoints. The key point is value: the value of using existing spaces to the best effect and the value of enabling a new investment to be the most efficient.
We've had some experience in this game - both working around existing infrastructure to craft an experience that is more responsive and suitable to the needs of users, such as our long term engagement with the Portuguese Airport Authority. However, we have also worked alongside architects and environments design to both build the experience into the physical space and design the physical space around the users' journey. See our work with Virgin Atlantic Airways at Heathrow's terminal 3.
What we've realised is that people's needs change over time and that the places and spaces they're using need to be able to adapt to and reflect these needs.
To a provider who wants to do this, there are two choices: you can spend a lot of money making an amazing piece of infrastructure that is beautiful and functional. If you're going to invest a large amount in this, you might as well spend a bit more to ensure that the thing is optimised for users and will not need updating any time soon.
If this is not an option, and for many it is not, a considerably reduced investment can generate significant change in a space, refreshing and improving the experience for staff and customers.
Both these options represent thinking ahead. It's the difference between that and the bill received for the updates to your space or service that is only a few years old and the dissatisfaction of your customers being charged twice for a journey or waiting furiously to pay.