More than just good-looking marketing: The relationship between marketers and service designers

More than just good-looking marketing: The relationship between marketers and service designers

By helping businesses look at their services through the eyes of the consumer, services designers can help organisations deliver better human experiences. So, with the common goal of understanding customer behaviour and experience, shouldn’t marketing and service design be better connected?

As a service designer, I help my clients look again at their products and services through the eyes of people who deliver and use them. Simply put, service design is the process of creating optimal service experiences for the customer by taking a holistic view of all the related parts of the system – staff, communication systems etc – and understanding how all these parts weave together. At Orange Bus, some of our most successful engagements in recent years have been delivered in collaboration with clients’ marketing teams. I have come to believe, in fact, that when service design and marketing teams collaborate, they can be a collective force for good, championing customer voice and helping to build better businesses.

When it comes to attracting and building relationships with customers, you need more than just a good-looking brand; more than a shiny surface or slick first touch. As a service designer, I know that any organisation attempting to improve or transform customer experience through superficial or ill-financed tweaks to the outer-most layer of their product or service will more than likely fail. Marketers recognise this too.

Whilst marketing is only now beginning to be seen as central to the day to day objectives of the business – and is still under-represented at board level - service design is already accepted as an end-to-end business process; one that can have a fundamental impact on profits and efficiency savings. So, can they work together to make the cultural shifts needed to embed customer experience in the boardroom? Here are four reasons to try it.

  1. Together, we can get the right people around the table

More than ever before, businesses are turning their back on wholesale efficiencies; customer voice is a power in its own right. Driving the purchase decisions and loyalties of other consumers is, arguably, now more effective than a brand’s own messaging.

Indeed, the world is changing. Consumers now have fewer qualms, and fewer difficulties, in switching providers and brands, with an immediate impact on the bottom line. Customer experience is the key differentiator in retention and profits, and marketing is slowly getting into the boardroom as a result.

In contrast, service design is understood in boardrooms to be something that involves all departments and is considered a way to drive profits and efficiencies. When service designers come into a business, there is often an air of anticipation, excitement or interest; an acceptance that – at the end of the process – there will be investment and transformation.

So, if your organisation is considering service design, make sure you have a seat at the project table so you can influence direction. Or, if your marketing team wants to get the full leadership team together but you don’t have the influence or “newness” factor, it may be worth considering if a service design pilot could help you to get the right people together to achieve the transformation you believe is needed.

  1. Together, we can achieve more than KPIs

Marketers and service designers both know that gathering insights and feedback from customers is key to doing better business, but we also know it’s not always that easy.

Marketing teams are usually driven by KPIs to achieve reach, such as brand engagement, lead generation and retention. Therefore, primary communications are set up to deliver against these KPIs. You may try to gather feedback from customers where possible, but it is rarely unbiased, as the feedback may well be in return for an offer or incentive. 

Feedback otherwise comes into marketing departments from unhappy customers who again are not necessarily reflective of all customers. Social listening is a popular method of searching for brand awareness, but the platform naturally attracts the very happy customers or, increasingly, the irate ones looking to complain. Is this a wholly representative view of your brand from which to make decisions by?

In contrast, all service design projects (should) start with unbiased and rigorous research to assess real human experiences. This makes the data gathered potentially genuinely insightful, and harder to ignore or argue against when presented to senior leadership teams. The data gathered and presented is often objective and startling. Marketing teams should find this kind of data set invaluable, allowing them to present objectives and make strong business cases for change. 

  1. Together, we can bring genuine change

All too often marketers must fight hard for investment in systematic change; for changes to the operational processes that impact either customer acquisition or the overall end experience. Unless you have significant organisational buy-in, marketers are expected to achieve transformative results with budget and approval for surface-level change only.

Service design, by contrast, is often a process undertaken to inform change and investment is an assumed part of the challenge. Service design has a number of tools and techniques that may be of use to marketers with similar goals. These include templates to capture and communicate key customer insights, tools for planning and creating service blueprints, and approaches to formulating business cases for investment. For example, take a look at the outputs of a recent discovery project delivered by Orange Bus for a group of local authorities. 

Marketing’s use of data and insight can combine effectively with the techniques of service designers to produce a more complete customer journey and, as a consequence, potential long-term profitability.

  1. Together, we are better than the sum of our parts

Service design and marketing not only share an overlapping set of processes and objectives, but they are able to work efficiently with multiple people as a result.

Marketing has to work across the entire business function to best meet organisational objectives, service design must do the same in order to make those objectives more achievable. Add in a similar desire to make things better on a holistic scale, both commercially and socially and, for lack of a better word, synergy emerges.

Such partnerships enable effective outcomes for the organisations we work for and with, but it also suggests interesting career or training paths for marketers who would like to extend their influence and have a more holistic impact on the organisations they work for. 

Marketing is continuing to grow across the business function, and department size is increasing, even in the wake of economic uncertainty. Yet, it needs allies in the office in order to make sure that organisations are making the right decisions for the long-term. Ultimately, that means putting customers first. Service design and marketing shouldn’t just be allies, they could be best friends.

If any of this has piqued your interest, we’d love to speak with you. You can also look out for more articles on this topic and more on the Orange Bus website, or drop us a line to if you’d like to chat.

Sam Richardson Customer Experience Consultant Orange Bus
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