By María Garreaud, service designer at Unit
Service design is an area that is expanding at a fast pace. There are many books dedicated to addressing this subject in its multiple facets, but few describe what elements make up a service that works. Good Services, How To Design Services That Work, written by Lou Downe, who worked in an executive design position at GDS –the UK’s government service agency–, explains precisely what a good service is, how to design it, and how to implement it.
In their book, Downe proposes 15 basic principles for designing services that work. Using clear, simple, and direct language, they define the fundamental pillars, avoiding complicated and cumbersome explanations.
If we consider that the objective of a service is “to help us do something”, designing a service that serves the user is the primary objective that any designer must keep in mind when it comes to tackling this task. However, a quick diagnosis of the current reality of our services shows that –whether because of lack of design or because of how these have gradually become automated without a clear guide or intention–, this usefulness is often lost. A good example is the frustration that we feel when we are unable to request human assistance for solving our problems with a service.
The services that work –and those that don’t work– are not the product of some act of wizardry, but rather, they are the result of an effective design or of a lack of such.
What I like about Good Services is that for any person working in services, it’s not a complex book. It doesn’t address how to design large services, nor is it about unique, exciting, or magical experiences. It doesn’t talk about how to surprise its users with something they weren’t expecting, or how to build something that the world has never seen before. It simply seeks to explain what makes a service a high-quality service. Some of the premises presented by the author are that a good service must be able to be used by all equally and must allow for easy access to human assistance. In addition to this, when designing, one should never add new ideas until what already exists is complete.
Good Services’ relevance lies in its ability to bring the conversation about service design and innovation to public employees. And it’s that as actors, they play a fundamental role: they are the ones who understand the most about the services they offer and who see people’s frustrations in regards to these.
In their book, Downe proposes 15 basic principles for designing services that work. Using clear, simple, and direct language, she defines the fundamental pillars, avoiding complicated and cumbersome explanations. The principles Downe proposes are:
- A good service is easy to find..
- A good service clearly explains what its use is.
- A good service establishes what can be expected from it.
- A good service allows the people who use it to finish what they need to do.
- A good service functions in a familiar way.
- A good service can be used without any previous knowledge.
- A good service is independent of organisational structures.
- A good service is completed in the minimum number of steps.
- A good service is consistent throughout the entire process.
- A good service shouldn’t have any dead ends.
- A good service can be used by everyone equally.
- A good service fosters adequate behaviours between the people who use it and those who work for the organisation.
- A good service must react to changes quickly.
- A good service clearly explains what its decisions are based on.
- A good service enables access to a person who can help you.
If we apply the principles and tools this book contains in order to innovate, design, and improve the services that are being provided to citizens, our reality could be radically different. Because good services contribute public value –through public, private, and civil society organisations– by building value for the users towards whom they are directed.