What is Service Design: Part 1 - Personas

Service design is the process of understanding and refining an organization’s people, processes, systems, and policies to improve both the employee experience and, directly and indirectly, the customer’s experience. I communicate to clients a simple 3 step approach to service design including:

  • Persona – Identify, define, and prioritize the customer types impacted by an organization's products, services, and policies;
  • Journey Map (customer viewpoint) – Research, document, and validate the persona’s experience (journey) with the organization over time and touchpoints; and
  • Service Blueprint (business viewpoint) – Document how the organization currently supports the customer journeys and use these artifacts to identify opportunities to improve the customer experience by creating new or improving upon existing products, services, and policies.

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Personas: What and Why

Today we focus on personas, artifacts that are a fictitious, specific, and concrete representations of a target customer group for a product, experience, or policy. Personas provide an actionable narrative that leverages both qualitative and qualitative research. First and foremost, a well-crafted persona allows the business to gain greater empathy for the customers who will benefit from the initiative.

Personas are artifacts created early in a project when teams are gaining a better understanding of the problem they are looking to solve and the people (customers) who are impacted by a new or improved product or service. The recommendation is that employees spend 2 hours every six weeks observing their customers as they use their products and services; this cannot always happen. HCD, as a philosophy, argues that understanding informs solutions, but many times businesses rush to a solution and make risky assumptions in a one-size-fits-all approach.

Rather than making business decisions based only on what is viable or feasible to the organization, a well-crafted persona allows organizations to inform their decisions based on what is desirable to their customers. For personas to be useful artifacts, please do not treat them as an unchangeable fact. Instead, personas tell the story of a customer type based on what the organization knows now, which could be subject to change the more they learn about and involve their customers in the process. Further, useful personas should not be customer stories or pretty pictures that collect dust on a shelf somewhere. Smart teams may create trading cards or full-size cardboard cutouts, whatever it takes to channel the customer perspective across levels within an organization making business decisions that impact these key stakeholders.