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Three steps to thinking human-first for Tech Service Designers

“We don’t just use a digital product or service, we feel it. More and more, in moments of frustration, joy, curiosity, or surprise, we turn to technology to help, enhance, or share our experiences. In this way, we connect to digital.” – IDEO on Prototyping for Digital Experiences

Thanks to the proliferation and expansion of technology, we have seen an explosion of service-based industries and product-service hybrids that we rely on daily. From banking to healthcare to shopping to exercise — everywhere you look, there is service design at play. This is becoming even more true as the impact of Covid accelerates the adoption and integration of technology into our lives.

But in this increasingly ‘liquid’ world — where behaviour, needs and habits are ever evolving — the products and services we design need to be ever smarter and better crafted in order to seamlessly fit into our days, build trust or stand out as remarkable moments in our lives. Indeed, a lack of empathic service design can have numerous business consequences: smaller spend, less loyalty, fewer conversions and reduced repeat purchases. 

While the global pandemic has brought many challenges for businesses, nations and society as a whole, it has also presented us with a unique opportunity for self-reflection and post-traumatic growth. Now is the perfect time to take stock and re-evaluate the service elements of your brand and business as ensuring your service is based on real consumer insight can mean the difference between success and failure. . 

Traditional service design typically addresses development questions throughout a 6 stage approach based on design thinking: empathise with your user, define the problem, ideate potential solutions, prototype select ideas, test and evaluate your prototypes (repeating as necessary) and implement the final solution.

However, at Brand Genetics, we believe one key element is missing that will take your service design to the next level: thinking human-first

Human-First Service Design

At Brand Genetics, we have two foundational beliefs that drive us:

  1. In an ever-changing world, the one constant is human nature
  2. People are always human first, consumers (colleagues, clients, etc.) second

As a result, we approach every challenge with a human-first perspective. Service design is no different — and so we’ve developed 3 guiding human-first principles for your team that will help them fully understand and tackle services and UX development. While written with the tech world in mind, these principles are equally as applicable to any service based business.

1) Think human, not user

‘Users’ or ‘consumers’ are only users or consumers for a fraction of their waking hours, and everything they do happens in the wider context of their daily lives. Think of the number of different places, times and moods you are in when you interact with your phone for example!

Thus we work to understand the human behind the ‘user’, and the real-world context surrounding them, to unlock insight and give meaning to the data. We do this by leveraging empathy techniques to put us in our consumers’ shoes — so we can think as they think, and feel as they feel — as well as by applying human psychology and behavioural science to better understand the universal human truths and motivations that drive behaviour. Only by placing yourself in your consumers’ (and clients’) shoes, going through the same process with an understanding of the motivations can you begin to craft an experience that is truly meaningful and positively impactful. Human-first ensures you’re designing for humans, not metrics. A good starting point may be our empathy playbook which you can now download for free here.

2) Champion inclusive co-creation, not exclusive design

We are all different, and we all bring different things to the table. Your users (and team members) are no exception. Each interaction with your brand or service is shaped by user expectation, which is in turn shaped by previous experiences and circumstances. And while it is impossible to design for every individual user, it is possible to listen, embrace and take on board learnings from consumers to better understand their wants and needs. We champion co-creation directly with consumers, as well as ensuring our own project team is diverse, to ultimately design solutions that are useful, usable and enjoyable. After all, while art is judged by critics and experts, design is judged on its consumer utility. Without human-first thinking, you will most likely be designing for a person that doesn’t exist, designing for an average that represents no-one.


3) Leverage 360 degree closeness

Whatever your goal is, to achieve it, it is essential that you immerse yourself as much as possible into the life of your service user.  However, when it comes to service design, this process involves not only your ‘end users’ but often the many layers in between. By leveraging empathy to tap into the perspectives of users, staff and stakeholders we are able to fully immerse ourselves in the holistic process, understanding the problems & opportunities from all angles in order to create lasting improvements — grounded in both consumer desirability and business feasibility. By getting closer to consumers, service providers (e.g. customer support teams for SAAS companies, baristas in a coffee shop, or any side in a 2-sided marketplace) and stakeholders alike, we are able to increase our empathic intelligence to enable better, more meaningful and ultimately more empowering solutions. If you’re not accounting for all stakeholders, you’re really only designing for half of the equation. For example, a perfect customer experience that is unsustainable for the staff simply migrates rather than solves business problems. Think about every layer of the interaction and make sure you are designing a service that is not only useful, usable, and enjoyable for users, but for the entire service ecosystem.


The ‘so what?’

Your ‘users’ are not merely users of your service, but complex humans just like you. In order to be successful in today and tomorrow’s world, acknowledging and embracing that fact is the essential first step to growth.

At Brand Genetics, we are not digital designers or technologists, and we don’t pretend to be. But what we are is great researchers and strategists who have a deep understanding of human nature, human motivation and human emotion. We hope by sharing these principles with you, you will be inspired to embrace a human-first perspective on your business and challenges and work towards a better, more human world.

Get in touch to learn more about our human-first approach!

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To hear more about what we are up to and the work we are doing, why not join our mailing list?