TP05-1P48 – Purpose-Driven Research as Key to Successful Service Design

Author(s): Stefan Moritz, Marcus Gabrielsson

A service experience takes place at the very moment when a person interacts with an organisation’s touchpoints over time. That interaction can’t be exported, as the customer always has to participate. However, each person does wear different hats when it comes to their needs and expectations depending on mood, agenda, time of day, etc. For instance, travelling through an airport is different and feels different when on a business trip versus a vacation with the family.

Recent neurological and psychological research gives us new insight into the way experiences work. Daniel Kahneman is well known for researching the dis- connect of the ‘Experiencing Self’ and the ‘Reflective Self’. The latter derives emotion from the memory of an experience. The peak positive and negative moments – and especially the end of an experience – shape that memory1.

Understanding individual emotions is key to designing better context. Designing for better emotional experiences, as well as practical, puts a new set of demands on service designers and enterprises. As many organisations are shifting to customer centricity the demand for research, data and metrics is increasing. Decision makers need the numbers to back up the business case for each design concept, and designers need qualitative insights to spark innovation. At first sight there seems to be a conflict between rigour and magic. How can intuition and imagination connect best with robust validation?

A recent global study of CEOs highlights that 66% consider customer relations as a key source of sustained economic value and 73% are investing heavily in customer insights. The CEOs challenge is that, even if they uncover customer insights, their organisation is not necessarily equipped to respond with relevance and speed2.
For service designers to respond successfully, it is critical to find the right combination of quantitative and qualitative research. It is as important to consider the decision-making process and organisational engagement as it is to uncover quality insights and innovative design solutions.


We see four key challenges. Firstly, finding the right balance between statistics (quantitative data) and the understanding of human needs and desires (qualitative data). Deep and truly game-changing insights most often come out of human interaction and are an essential part of the design process. Quantitative data can be limited in its depth and often not sufficient to uncover the underlying emotions and motivation to pursue the ‘Why’ behind the numbers as innovation-sparking fuel. Qualitative research, on the other hand, can be time consuming to prepare and expensive at a scale where it would be statistically robust. Often, decision makers are used to a more robust statistical validation and research reports based on quantitative data. Secondly, to drive relevant outcomes, you have to negotiate between business reality and understanding customers. It can be difficult to share the empathy with customer’s emotional experiences across all relevant stakeholders. This is not only key to creating relevant designs, but also for stakeholder and project confidence, buy-in and prioritisation of investments. Thirdly, it can be hard to articulate the value of service design solutions in a way that connects with established measurements and benchmarks and the fourth challenge we see is empowering decision makers with the right data and intelligence to validate solutions and, what’s more, to justify these to their peers, the board or shareholders.

Veryday has worked with both qual- itative and quantitative design research for more than 40 years. In the last decade, a number of service design projects have highlighted the need for new perspec- tives and solutions. Ultimately, it comes down to undertaking a focussed effort to understand the constraints and culture of business owners and to negotiating the right approach and, ideally, to be re-appraised regularly. The framework of ‘Four stages of research’ has been a useful aid in optimising the choice and combina- tion of relevant research formats.


There are five key lessons that might help us create more effective research for service design projects:

1. Research the research: properly leverage existing research and help the organisation to make sense of it from both consumer and business perspectives. For example, with a large international travel business we conducted an audit of all existing research to identify important principles and gaps, as well as making the whole body of knowledge accessible and more valuable. Real- time behavioural data presents new challenges, but also new opportunities. Persona clusters can be mapped against business models and help identify the value of service design solutions.

2. The client is also a user: organisations often need help navigating and packaging their insight strategy. As service designers, we should be well equipped to help organisations to design both qualitative and quantitative studies. We need to step back and take internal politics, motivations, perception of risk and value as seriously as what we know about customers. We used this approach successfully to help the innovation department at a global life-science equipment provider completely change their strategy.

3. Sense and feel the magic: involve and engage different stakeholders to be immersed in research data. As Bill Moggridge said: “The only way to experience an experience is to experience it.”3 So, bring stakeholders along during research, give them a role and let them experience first hand. This will make them ambassadors for insights and concepts further on in the process and help connect organisation and customer needs. For example, with a global furniture retailer we have role- played selected situations and insights to give the client team a chance to ‘feel themselves’ into their customers in a very effective way.

4. Purpose as key to success: understand- ing the ‘Why’ of people’s behaviours and emotions is as important as ‘Why’ research initiatives take place and how they are linked to each other. Customer behaviour is not always well represented in explicit verbalised articulation. It is key to understanding what lies behind, what the drivers are and, ultimately, to discovering the underlying purpose. The framework ‘Very Deep Water’ has been very helpful in discussing and identify the right methodological set up.

5. Connecting research strategy with validation strategy: if the measurement is negotiated upfront, it becomes easier to connect and inform a quantitative study with qualitative input. In many projects, we have seen that a research set up with clear constraints, as well as a strategy on how to process and validate data, makes the research and analysis process more effective. In a recent project, we helped a logistics provider improve the service offered to private individuals. We used our ‘Speed Dating’ method to respond to the requirement of quantitative validation. Through scenario business cases, extrapolation and quantified iterations, we established results that were judged to be ‘good enough’ for decision-making in a fraction of the cost and the time that a regular approach would have taken.

Emotional Experience Mapping

As humans, customers are influenced by emotions in their acceptance, liking and attachment to products and services. An emotion is both a mental and physiological state, associated with a wide variety of feelings, thoughts and behaviours. Emotions evoke different actions and reactions to products, services and the brands that create them. Alongside traditional customer journey maps, we also map the emotional journey of customers – before, during and after using a service – providing vital cues to innovation. Understanding emotions means that we can design the most compelling context, services and systems possible. Truly understanding and addressing the emotions of customers offers an opportunity to differentiate a service experience.

How does it work?

  1. Segmentation & recruitment for interviews, shadowing, and observation
  2. Consumer interviews capturing and probing emotions that occur before, during and after user interaction
  3. Emotion clustering
  4.  Mapping and analysis of the total emotional journey
  5. Emotional pattern analysis

The map provides vital clues on how to add value to a proposition and make our clients offerings more meaningful and attractive to their customers.

Overall, the opportunity for service designers is to see ‘Qual’ and ‘Quant’ as complements to the process. When the two approaches work together, the pro- cess is more efficient and service design projects more successful. We used such a Qual/Quant set up for a large global FMCG brand very successfully last year. During a six-month period, we conducted qualitative studies in Asia, the US, Europe and South America, spending many hours shadowing, interviewing and co-creating with consumers in their own private environments. Each insight process was followed by ideation and prototyping and local validation tests. This allowed the organisation to make global conclusions on local insights and data. As a young field, we in service design need to continue to develop tools and best practice to bridge, as well as link, the two approaches. Ultimately, business facts and figures with clear connection to human behaviour are hard to argue with. Setting a validation strategy early on in the process with decision makers and stakeholders creates a more integrated development process. Validated innova- tion rooted in deep insights is the key to building strong and sustainable service design solutions and can create valuable long-term brand affinity.

Speed Dating

From the start of this project, we knew that this logistics company required validation tests for concepts for them to be able to make strategic decisions. This meant we designed our qualitative method set up with a quantitative study in mind. We considered how we were going to measure the success of our concepts. Consumer issues that later emerged during our qualitative study helped us frame problems, as well as giving input on how to measure the extent to which the concept addressed or eliminated these issues. With this knowledge, we outlined a quantitative study and incorporated qualitative variables at the same time. The qualitative part: we researched customers from the very beginning of their decision-making
process at their kitchen tables, through every step of the purchase process, from finding the right address and service, to looking up the opening hours of the service. Through a combination of immersive research techniques, observations and interviews, we tracked frustrations and emotional highs and lows throughout the whole experience. This allowed us to overlay an emotional ‘heat map’ on top of the more traditional customer journey map. This helped identify events and touchpoints and the emotional clusters connected to specific parts of the journey. Analysis of these clusters of emotions later informed the ideation process and helped us reduce customer frustrations with our design concept. The quantitative part: the ‘Speed Dating’ method
combines both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Having addressed consumer frustrations with our concepts, we wanted to find out to what extent these frustrations were reduced or eliminated. This was measured by asking questions related to the issue that the concept aimed to solve. In this way, we were able to extract statistics on how well we solved the problem.

This is how Speed Dating works:

  • A number of stations are set up in one location
  • Consumers are exposed to a service prototype that is brought to life
  • Throughout the validation test, the customer is prompted with various questions, which are logged through a questionnaire
  • When completed, the customer moves to the next prototype
  • Analysis and validation

Here is a sample question we asked in the project, based on a qualitative insight, namely that customers sometimes had difficulties understanding what input was needed from them in order for the service to perform at its best:

“This service makes it easy for me to understand what I need to do to get what I want.”

The respondents were then asked to rank on a scale how well the prototype responded to the above question. This way we were able to quantitatively measure acceptance level and likeability for each prototype. User-validated concepts, in combination with
scenario business cases for each concept, allowed top management to make grounded decisions on how to prioritise and move forward. Pros and cons of this method: this method requires active recruitment and working with the same cohort throughout both qualitative and quantitative research stages (the same cohort, that is, for evaluating the prototype as the one identifying the need for it, and not necessarily the same individuals), and the experience needs to be brought to life. Both take time and drive costs that need to be considered. The benefit of this validation is to be able to ask the ‘Whys’ for more qualitative input behind the collected data. In our experience, it is possible to get qualitative and quantitative feedback on several service prototypes from many customers in a relatively short period of time. The value of this method lies in obtaining a robust validation in a very effective way by leveraging the best of qualitative and quantitative techniques.

1 Daniel Kahneman TED talk 2010 talks/daniel_kahneman_the_riddle_of_experience_vs_ memory.html
2 IBM conducted more than 1,700 in-depth, face-to-face interviews with CEOs, general managers and senior public sector leaders from around the globe. ceostudy2012/


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