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Scott Shreeve, MD

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I'm the CEO of Crossover Health, a patient-centered, membership-based medical group that is redesigning the practice, delivery, and experience of health care. We offer urgent, primary, and online care to our members who can access our technology platform, practice model, and provider network from anywhere and anytime to optimize their health. Email Me



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I wrote about Service Design in a previous post, a business concept explicitly mentioned by Kevin Slavin at our summer 2019 Bombora event. Kevin used Warby Parker as his Service Design example and how well they incorporated concepts, tools, and workflows that enabled WP employees to deliver an integrated online and real world experience. It’s clear that they designed this in a comprehensive way—all the parts were always seen as part of a much larger whole and therefore were considered both individually but also collectively for maximum impact.

As you really dig into how brands “perform” their work, you will become more aware in your daily experiences of other examples of well-executed (or not) Service Design efforts. Next time you’re out doing errands, no matter how mundane, look for brands who are really trying to do things differently, and with real design intent. I was in a Starbucks the other day, and watched as the baristas seamlessly coordinated their efforts while serving a long but steadily moving line of customers. There was no one person specifically assigned to cash, or sandwiches, or even the hot drink machines—the tasks ebbed and flowed among all the team members. Given their size and success, sometimes Starbucks takes some heat—it’s too big, the coffee is indifferent compared to specialty coffee shops, it’s generic, ‘baristas’ is a silly word, there are so many stores it’s a cultural joke, etc. But, despite those criticisms, the lines remain as long today as they were 10 years ago. When you really pay attention, it is impressive how well they do with such remarkable consistency and such massive scale.

This is no accident, nor is it the outcome of some high-level mission delivered to employees via a list of value statements stuck on the wall in the back room. Rather, I believe it is a result of thoughtful service design. It’s baked into the training (the Starbucks training manual is great). It’s reflected in the store design (did you know that Starbucks specifically designs its coffee machines to be lower, so that a barista can maintain eye contact with the customer while making a cappuccino?). It’s a key part of its loyalty care (which is also the payment method of choice). Everything is done to ensure the staff can deliver on the promise of the customer-focused “third place between work and home” that has always been Starbucks’ “why.”

I previously shared a quote from the godfather of service design Don Norman from his company’s web site:

“Service design improves the experiences of both the user and employee by designing, aligning, and optimizing an organization’s operations to better support customer journeys.”

Norman Neilson Group, Service Design 101 (accessed November 16, 2019)

As I noted before, healthcare needs a major dose of service design, particularly because it is so human-powered. The need to align processes, interactions, and transitions within healthcare is self-evident, but the methodology to consistently deliver service excellence has been missing. Furthermore, as we progress through the digitalization of healthcare, the transitions between in person, online, and anytime care must be as fluid as your best retail experience. If our promise is to reduce the barriers and friction that get in the way of people becoming and staying healthy—then our craft must be well-honed enough to ensure this literally and seamlessly happens. This means everything from the services we provide, to the schedule availability, to the environments we use—and all the coordination, navigation, and management in between—must be thoughtfully designed, carefully delivered, and relentlessly measured for improvements. All the precepts of Service Design incorporated into a comprehensively and seamlessly designed service.

Kevin Slavin sagely noted that incorporating Service Design into healthcare “is not complicated, it’s just hard.” But companies like Starbucks and for that matter, Crossover (with our Connected System of Health), have embraced the hard work of Service Design to make transformative experiences look easy. Now, the next time you are pleasantly surprised and surprisingly delighted, look for the service design elements in that pixie dust experience.

2 comments on “More Thoughts on Service Design

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