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Design Your Service Beautifully

When you think about what ‘beautiful design’ means to you, a physical product probably comes to mind. It might be your iPhone, the classic Jaguar F-Type, a Nest thermostat, a Danish-designed chair from the 1950s, those amazing spectacles that allow you to adjust the lenses until they focus, or even Concorde. It works not just because it looks beautiful, is easy to use, or solves your problem elegantly; it’s because it does all three at the same time. A superb piece of design makes you feel good when you’re using it.

Although we can all point to products we consider to be beautifully designed, it can feel like a leap to apply this thinking to a service. But why should it? A well-designed service also brings those three elements together, with an eye to how your customers will feel when they use it.

A superb piece of design makes you feel good when you’re using it.

Naturally, your service doesn’t exist for its own sake – its purpose is to create value for your customers, thereby adding value to your business. The first element of value is the commercial advantage you will gain in your market by launching a great service, at least for a period. When you develop an initiative around something your competitors aren’t doing, or that exceeds your customers’ expectations of your brand and industry, you gain the ability to acquire new customers, reduce the number that leave you, and retain them for longer.

The UK’s NatWest Bank enabled their customers to make emergency cash withdrawals from their ATMs if they lost their bank card, a service which was innovative and solved a genuine problem. The fact that few people were likely to use it wasn’t the point, it was that it gave them something positive to talk about in their marketing which was different to other banks – and it was more than just marketing. Even if their competitors had wanted to copy the move they couldn’t have marketed it because NatWest had already played that card.

Why design beautifully? Quite simply, because well-designed services are more successful in the market than those that aren’t. People feel at ease when they use them, and as a result, will choose them more frequently. Beautiful design connects emotionally with your customers, so it carries on working hard for you long after the experience is over for them.

Also, well-designed services cost less to operate. You might assume something of higher value to your customers must cost more for you to provide, but there’s no reason why this should be the case. Beautifully designed physical products use materials efficiently, are reliable, and are so easy to use it’s hard for customers to accidentally misuse them. The same applies to the design of services. An elegantly designed service is one that responds to both the needs of your customers and your business, creating maximum value for each by being easy to experience, delivered efficiently, and unlikely to cause customer and colleague errors.

Beautifully designed services are well thought-through, they delight your customers by connecting emotionally with them, and they cost less (and cause fewer headaches) to implement than their poorly-designed counterparts. Why wouldn’t you want to design your services in this way? In fact, ‘beautiful design’ was probably what you had in mind all along, you just may not have had the language to describe it.

What makes a service beautifully designed? Posing this question is a bit like asking what makes one office chair a design classic, selling at a premium for decades, while another is…well…just another office chair. Each does the same thing, but one does it beautifully. And that beauty isn’t skin deep – it encapsulates something of real value that looks and works brilliantly and is, somehow, right for the moment. Every time you look at that chair you find yourself smiling; every time you sit on it you feel more relaxed and confident, every time someone asks where you got it from you feel a thrill of pride. And it’s only a chair.

...qualities such as: originality, inclusivity, fitness for purpose and being right for the time and the culture it’s operating in.

Johanna from Finnair defines beautiful service design as combining seamless operation with moments of delight:

“I absolutely believe that services can be designed beautifully. We must strive for this. The industry is very good at copying. Copy paste, copy paste. But when you can make each element work together well you can get to beauty and this is hard to copy. When a service is designed well there are no distracting elements. It’s well thought through and because of this it just works. Customers won’t even know that it’s been designed. And on top of this, you can add elements of delight, the things people remember, ‘I wouldn’t have thought of that’, ‘I didn’t think that was possible’. We are using technology more and more to achieve this. We can design-in positive surprises and cater for the things that people are not expecting. Experiences – even of an airport - can be beautiful in the sense that they can touch us emotionally.”

In the book we look at why elegant and integrated design is essential for successful services, what makes a service ‘beautiful’, and how you can design your own services which will appeal to your customers in a powerful way. We set-out attributes that, beyond the obvious ones, we think make for a beautifully designed service, qualities such as: originality, inclusivity, fitness for purpose and being right for the time and the culture it’s operating in. And offer some tips for honing your ability to critiqué the services you use and develop a ‘design language’ so that you can inspire and direct others.

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