How Service Designer can have that extra oomph in the world of Digital Experiences.

Few things are more upsetting than falling asleep at a friend’s party and waking up to discover you’re all alone. ”Where did everyone go? Have I been left behind?” 

Now, let’s extrapolate the issue to business and consider a practical but profound reality: if you’ve paved your company’s digital experiences with the “good old content management practices” (like advertising sports) and technologies that were established 20 years ago, it’s time for you to wake up. And feel a bit worried.

Nowadays, it is quite common that digital experiences are simply considered as an interaction between a user and an organization, possible only because of modern technologies or the use of internet.

It would be like saying that going to school is simply taking the bus to reach the building and reading books to increase our knowledge. Or that throwing a party means only inviting some friends and family and cooking new recipes.

But in reality, the bus is only a means of transport that define how we go to school, and books are simply the tools we use to study. The experience of going to school is much more than that and it includes, for example, the selection of the courses we’d like to attend, the relationships we establish with our classmates and teachers, longs nights in preparation for the final exams, enjoying lunch with our friends (or alone) at the school canteen. The same way, inviting friends and family to a party means choosing whom to invite and how to invite them, letting them know why we’d like to celebrate and what the party will consist of. And finally, “cooking new recipes” include selecting the recipes, doing grocery shopping, probably making one (or more) attempt in order to be sure about the quality and the final result of the dishes.

Experiences are the sum a lot of different elements (both physical and digital), from expectations and needs that the particular experience can fulfil, to the human or non-human interactions that the situation can originate (including behaviors and feelings). From the environment where these interactions take place and the atmosphere generated, to the tools that facilitate the experience, to the knowledge or practical wisdom gained from what one has observed, encountered or undergone.

Therefore, technology on its own doesn’t make something a digital experience. It’s the interaction among the parts and the benefits arising from the situation that differentiates and adds value to an experience itself. Reading a scan of a paper document, for example, isn’t a useful interaction to include within the scope of this definition, because it doesn’t offer anything experientially different than reading a physical copy would. 

Digital experiences should be considered as processes that do what the physical ones cannot. A scanned document can convey written information as well as a piece of paper with no additional value; whereas a digitally enhanced pdf can include cross-references to other documents, right-click definitions, online collaborations, auto-translations and digital signatures.

With this example is very clear (but not obvious) that digital experiences should, first of all, add a concrete and significant value for whoever is living this particular experience, in a coherent and harmonious way. Valuable and enriching digital interactions, in fact, are never “isolated” and don’t end in themselves: consistency and integration among different channels at different levels have to be a must.

The first level envisions organizations focusing on omni-channel digital strategies and wanting to ensure the integrity of their brand across channels, in order to create and maintain reliability. But be careful! Publishing identical content and experiences across channels, for example, may only alienate customers, rather than engage them. Or not tracking all the interactions across different channels (email, phone, social media, live chat etc.) may influence the customer to receive a fragmented and inconsistent digital experience.

The best customer experiences (including the non-digital ones), in fact, require a new anatomy for content management. Engaging and satisfying customers requires richer and more personalized experiences delivered dynamically across several and various channels. Contents must be break down and their components have to be rebuilt according to specific needs; identify and deploy content from a wider range of sources; and assemble the technology components required to deliver a relevant, valuable and delightful digital experience for each single customer.

In addition to an omni-channel digital strategy, a deeper level of consistency and integration envisages the digital experiences to be aligned with the physical ones.

Craig Borowski mentioned this episode in his Harvard Business Review’s article: imagine an airline company that gives you one customer ID on its website and then required a different identifier when your hands are full at their kiosk in the airport. Chances you end up with a disjointed and confusing impression of the brand are high. Immediate frustration aside, over time these inconsistencies erode loyalty.

Perhaps the best way to think about the digital experience is to put it in the context of real life, as usually Mick MacComascaigh, research vice president at Gartner, does use this example. Two people are having a conversation on their mobile phones. They’re walking and talking and, when they turn a corner, they literally bump into each other. They say “hey, such a coincidence! how are you!” and then probably hang up the phones and continue talking. They for sure don’t start the conversation all over again.

The best digital experiences should be like that, too. Natural. Seamless. Intuitive, regardless of which channel they originated or which one they continue on minutes, hours or days later.

At this point, it is quite clear why the role of User Interface Designers, Developers, Graphic Designers, Content Managers, Communication Designers and many others, is significant in achieving such objectives. But what about Service Designers?

Well, Service Design can be considered as the key and multidisciplinary practice able to bridge the gaps and orchestrate all the different aspects of a range of experiences people can have with an organization on every physical or digital touchpoint.

For all the customer experiences to work in a coherent and smooth way a deep, detailed and accurate framework of many different elements has to be delineated. Elements such as customer and business needs, internal processes and performances of the organizations, the brand positioning, the general context in which the company operates, the market and its competitors have to be understood and interpreted.

Moreover, the role of Service Designers in designing enriching digital experiences is also to analyze all the gathered information and give the organization a more complete sense of the customer’s identity, including relationships, intentions and sentiments as they interact with their businesses. As Michael Hinshaw, CEO of the customer experience management company McorpCX, says “Digital experience strategy isn’t an IT-driven initiative; it’s a customer-needs driven initiative. There’s a huge difference between simply using digital technology and actually leveraging it to improve customer experiences and better address customer needs.”


In conclusion, how companies will deliver coherent and consistent digital experiences according to their users’ needs will be an essential element of future success for their overall businesses.