How to Meet Service Design Expectations in the “New Normal”

Over the past few years, services across industries have gone mostly touchless and digital, removing humans as much as possible. We now have easier remote banking, contactless food delivery, telehealth access, and online shopping for all of retail. 

With a new normal establishing itself between the ebbs and surges of COVID, we have the ability to incorporate humans and in-person services again. But what we’re starting to see is this doesn’t mean we can scrap the digital and just go back to the way things were pre-pandemic. Nor do people want to keep living in a digital-only world. So how do we reorient our services to meet the expectations of our “new normal” users? 

Start with the service design process

The good news is that, from a design process standpoint, we can be pretty picky about where we need to be in person again. Despite some adjustment periods for many teams, the remote collaboration and investigation most design teams have been doing for the last two years have worked pretty well. Things like digital co-creation workshops and remote customer interviews have been super beneficial for engaging with customers in a space that can be less invasive than being in their home and less nerve-wracking or difficult to access/schedule around than an office or meeting space. 

That said, research is crucial to understanding users’ behaviors and desires. And fresh qualitative research can help you understand your customers’ new routines and behaviors and determine which parts of your service should remain digital, which require a nuance or complexity best served by offering in-person, and which points of the process should have multichannel access.

When it comes to how you do that research, it’s important to note that digital-only research can leave out customers for whom digital is not readily available, along with some observational ethnographic studies which are just challenging to do remotely. These scenarios are great reasons to incorporate in-person research modes again and ensure the full picture is considered for a service design. 

Takeaway #1: Return to onsite/in-person research to get detailed information on behaviors and context that customers may not be aware of to tell you about in a remote conversation, but couple it with remote interviews where you will get information to “color in” the observation. This will allow for the maximum coverage of user types and information. 

Creating a “new normal” service for 2022

When it comes to the actual service provided, it’s probably no surprise that customers have become accustomed to having digital options that they can access from home. And truly, many people like having these digital options that can either replace in-person services for greater comfort, convenience, or accessibility (like online religious services or remote workout sessions) or shorten their in-person time (like pre-registering for a doctor’s appointment before arrival). But for those same doctor’s appointments, some people prefer the in-person experience to the telehealth calls they’ve made do with for the last few years. And, let’s be honest: while online workouts are great when you don’t have the time to get that mental health break and also get to work, sometimes you might just want more of a community setting for your wellness moment.

Every business and every service is going to be a little different, in terms of meeting the expectations of 2022 users, but you can bet that some amount of multichannel solution will be in your future. Starting workshops now with stakeholders from various departments who work on the different channels and touchpoints will help you understand sooner rather than later the technical or operational constraints and business viability of continuing, removing, or adding to the existing channels. 

Takeaway #2: Get the right people “in the room” together to talk through everyone’s plans and capabilities moving forward. Use customer research to define which channels are most valuable and align the strengths of digital and in-person to specific pain points in a customer journey. This can help you define the right, holistic experience for your customers and ultimately, your business.

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