Service Design and Customer Experience in Germany

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Oct 04 2013, Posted by Florian Vollmer
Service Design and Germany

On a recent trip to Germany, I had the chance to catch a snapshot of the service design scene in Berlin and Nuremberg.

In a conversation with Manuel Großman, a cofounder of Service Design Berlin, the vibrancy of the scene becomes palpable. From open collaboration spaces and regular service design meetings and conferences to a thriving innovation scene around fab labs—creatives in Berlin have a tendency to connect for ‘projects’. This exploratory and collaborative approach results in practitioners that are truly working to advance the practice and field as a whole. In close proximity to the German arm of the (Potsdam), Berlin is buzzing with folks that seek to combine design and business for better customer experiences.

Focusing on service design for organizational innovation, Jens Lange, a facilitator and creative thinker, highlights the importance of working on-site with the client. Lange’s workshops combine creative techniques with a new approach to business consulting, immersing the client in the innovation process to yield better results and a higher rate of execution.

The digital agency space is energetically developing in Berlin as well, and the tech startup scene is thriving—sometimes Berlin is called the “European Silicone Valley”. The ability to get projects off the ground without much capital is key in this dynamic business environment. Paul Nitsche of bytepark  collaborates with brands and agencies to bring about better digital experiences. Even though much of Berlin’s creative scene is driven by freelancers, Paul truly believes in building a strong full-time team to enable long-term innovation.

Multiple voices cited the acquisition of Fjord by Accenture as a key proof point that traditional business consulting is beginning to realize the significance of design-based innovation processes. The holistic, stakeholder-centric approach intrinsic to service design thinking brings a new quality to business consulting.

Service design and entrepreneurship are directly linked in Berlin, with many practitioners focusing on building service-oriented business from the get go.

Traveling 400 km south-west an interesting conversation with Adam Lawrence with Work•Play•Experience and founder of Global Service Jam, shifted the conversation towards the space of meaningful change management and organizational adoption of service design innovation. Adam uses play and improvisation to connect thinking with doing and to crack the code on truly enabling better service quality within major brands. We agreed on the crucial importance of giving retail sales associates (or front-line actors) a strong sense of belonging and meaning. Something that is—by the widespread adoption of vocational training of RSAs—more of a reality in Germany today than in the United States, and something that is a rich field of opportunity for service design professionals.

A common thread that wove through all the service design conversations was the importance of client education: enabling the client stakeholder team to fully grasp the power of service design, as a foundation for actually bringing about the organizational motivation to execute on service innovation.

An active scene willing to explore unchartered territory, nimble organizational structures, and a strong desire for collaboration across firms characterizes service design in Germany 2013. Under the umbrella term of “Customer Experience”, service design is maturing and proving its key place in corporate value generation.

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