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I’m sure this situation sounds familiar. Well-known bank has to replace your cash card. They don’t schedule the delivery, despite giving clear instructions repeatedly to the customer support representative. Thus you miss the delivery and have to make a fresh request that takes 4 working days to process. You then try the IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system to change the PIN. After entering all your personal information, card information, details of your favorite color, childhood sweetheart and grandmother’s maiden name, the IVR pushes you back to Customer Support. At which point, you need to put all of the above in words. Again. Disappointed, frustrated and left with a defunct piece of plastic. Can’t shift the bank as your home loans, car loans, salary loans and your right arm (it’s there in the tiny print) are tied to the bank account. So you exercise every iota of your patience calling “Mr. We-want-to-help-you-but-frankly-can’t” thrice a week. Whew!

Poor customer service affects our lives every single day. What gives? What is missing for those who aim to provide good quality service but sadly keep missing? Apart from a lack of vision and coordination, the answer seems to be simple - a total lack of empathy for consumer of the service.

Service Design aims to bridge that gap.

Service Design is the design of services with the aim of elevating the overall quality of interactions and value between the service provider and the service consumer.  Using design processes and methodologies, Service Design banks on the design and definition of services according to the needs and expectations of the consumers of the service, so that the services offered are user friendly, hassle free and competitive.

ThoughtWorks has been one of the local hosts for the Global Service Jam- perhaps the largest design thinking and service design event around the world.   For 48 hours, individuals, often strangers, from different spheres of life come together to solve issues they face in their communities. Through the power of non-hierarchical collaboration, teams work on a common global theme, but with their own interpretation and adaptation.  The participants also experience various facets, tools and techniques of design processes, like Ethnography, Contextual Interviews and user research, business model canvas and prototyping. The final goal is to prototype and share it globally. Mentors and experts in design thinking walk around helping jammers with their concepts. At the end of the Jam, all the prototypes, or more precisely, "documentation of a working prototype, are uploaded to PlanetJam. Pretty exhaustive, yet an extremely fun filled event this one, the jammers make friends for life.  

We now chat with Adam Lawrence and Markus Edgar Hormeß, the founders of the Global Service Jam. Enjoy the conversation and insights:

Q How did the idea of the Global Service Jam come about?

Markus is active in the Global Game Jam (GGJ) a great event with a similar format. We were amazed by the energy and focus of the Game Jam, and wanted to bring that to our field - the world of service innovation and customer experience. We checked in with the GGJ guys, and they were supportive, so we decided to give it a try and to add our own flavour.

Q What isn’t the Global Service Jam?

It’s not a start-up weekend because most people at the Jams are not looking to start a new business. They are looking for a useful, fun weekend and a great experience. It’s more about learning, meeting and growing, than about continuing the project.

It isn’t a barcamp, because it has a clear goal to produce something at the end of the weekend.

It isn’t a networking event, because we are here to work side-by-side (and see the real person), not just to shake hands and swap cards.

It isn’t a hackathon, because we put a lot of emphasis on finding the right “it” before we build “it” right.

It isn’t a conference, as it is about doing, not talking.

Q How do the approaches, concepts and solutions differ across the globe? Have there been surprises?

The approaches differ widely depending on local facilitation, not geography. Some Jams are very academic, some very designer-focused, some very party-like, and some quite business-like. That’s great - we do not want the Jam to be a monoculture. 
The Themes of the Jams are always interpreted with local eyes. For example, the GovJam theme “Infectious Connections” was interpreted by Australians with projects to connect government workers; and by Iranians with projects to improve wastewater treatment.

Q What are your views on Service Design? Is service design relevant to emerging economies?

Service design or design thinking or new marketing, or whatever you want to call it - is a fascinating and useful toolset. It does two very important things really well. Firstly, it gives a diverse group of people a common language and understanding of a project or problem. That means, specialists, experts, users, and staff can work together much better because they have a shared simple toolset.  Secondly, it takes as a starting point, the human side of the service; working with users and other stakeholders to find the services and business models they need, not the other way around.

Q How can larger and traditional organizations benefit from the service design approach? Can the benefits be measured and governed?

Yes, service design or design thinking is enormously useful in large organisations. Again, it addresses many of the problems of size by giving people in different parts of the organisation a common language and a focus on the value of the offering, breaking through silo-thinking to create something which people want to buy and recommend.

As a former psychologist, I know it is difficult to measure many things in complex environments - although the benefits of offering a great experience have been clearly shown. So it is better perhaps to ask, “what is the cost of not doing this?” What is the cost of not getting better, not providing a better service, while competitors do? What is the ROI on innovation and improvement?

Q What principles and lessons from Service Design could be carried over to Lean and Agile product innovation initiatives?

These three areas have a lot in common, and can certainly learn from each other. We regularly meet with people from the Agile and Lean communities to exchange experience and find synergies - check MoDALproject.com for details. If you are speaking in headlines, you might say Service Design finds the value, Agile gets it done, and Lean keeps it on track.  If you are in any of these fields, you should be talking to the others regularly.

Q What other events have sprung from the Global Service Jam?

The first of our Jams was the Global Service Jam in 2011, but we followed it with the Global Sustainability Jam a few months later. This sister event also welcomes product designs alongside services. In 2012 we piloted GovJam with the Australian federal government and Protopartners, and in 2013 we launched the Global version, bringing together citizens, public servants and professional innovators to jam on public service. Alongside those global events, we know that many local Jammers and Hosts are using jamming techniques in their work or communities. There has been an EduJam, a mining Jam, several tourism Jams, and more will come.

Q How has your experience been with the Global Service Jam 2013?

It was great to be in India for the 2013 GS Jam. Prior to it, the Global HQ of the Jam (the hotline desk, if you like) had always been in Germany, where we live. But the Jam is a Global event, so we wanted to send a new message. The Indian Jams had exploded onto the scene in 2012, and were immediately among the biggest and most exciting Jams, so Bangalore was our top favourite. The Guys at ThoughtWorks are Jam superstars, having supported many Jams in India and Africa. We worked with them to make the trip happen and it was a great experience for us to be in that energy and flair. Truly a Jam highlight.

Q What is the future for the Global Service Jam?

In our first years with the Jam, we pushed the Jammers towards doing, not talking. That has become part of the Jam DNA now, which is great. Now, we are exploring the power of prototyping, and the path of thinking with your hands, sharing by showing, and deciding by testing. It’s been an exciting journey!

Thanks Adam and Markus! You can reach Adam and Markus via http://www.workplayexperience.com or on Twitter @adamstjohn and @markusedgar.

Check out some of the projects (Bangalore, Pune, Chennai, Kampala and New York), photos (Bangalore, Pune, New York and Chennai) and videos(Bangalore, Pune and New York) from our recent Jams. Have you attended a recent Jam? What are your thoughts on it?