Designing Services Around the Human Experience

“You are not working from home; you are at your home during a crisis trying to work.” Unknown, 2020

Stop for a moment and think about this statement, I mean really think about it. It takes a moment or two doesn’t it, to assess how you feel about it and then the ‘ah-ha’ moment when you think, ‘yes that’s right, I get it’!

Everyone’s experience to what we are going through during the COVID-19 pandemic is at times extremely personal, sometimes shared and certainly documented over every channel, platform or medium that exists! I’m going to share something with you, I’ve had good days and bad days. Writing that down in an article that I know will be viewed by colleagues and people I don’t know makes me feel vulnerable, but isn’t that part of what we are all experiencing right now? A necessity to let ourselves truly express what we feel, to be vulnerable, to be authentic and to ask for help when we need it?

I work as part of the World-Changing Glasgow Transformation Team, where I am Head of Service Design at the University of Glasgow. I work with a great team of people, trying to progress meaningful, sustainable change to support students and staff. A big part of what we do is to try and understand ‘experiences’, from a human centred perspective. This means meeting with students and staff, speaking to them, observing them and really understanding what it is that they enjoy, what causes them frustration and pain, and ultimately what matters most to them. We do this so that we can create and design services and processes that are meaningful and seamless, so our staff and student experience is that ‘things just work’.

During the pandemic I set up a local support group in my area, I did this because I genuinely care about my community and neighbours. I believe that if we all start from a place of kindness, this creates an environment that supports others and enables people to thrive. My motto during this was ‘help like no one is watching’. What exactly do I mean by that? I gave my time and set the group up because there was a need and I had the skills and drive to meet that need, not because I wanted to be noticed or commended for doing the right thing.

I think good service design is like that, creating services that no one notices. That may sound a bit strange so let me unpack it a bit. When we design services, the focus should be on a service that works from the perspective of our service users. They don’t notice the service you are delivering so much as they notice their need is met. When was the last time you experienced a service like that? I challenge you to reply in the comments box and let me know; describe it, what made it good?

Perhaps you can’t recall a service experience that was like that? Often the services I have experienced involve being passed from one team to another, late responses/no responses and a lot of effort on my part to chase up, where the service should have been doing that for me. My ‘best’ service experiences are often framed around a great response to rectifying where things went wrong, so a good end to a less than optimal experience.

Is it even possible to define a ‘good service’?

These are questions my team and I consider and embed into our approach as we work to transform the University of Glasgow. We use our shared experiences to collaborate, constructively challenge and support each other to provide a solid design and discovery methodology to inform decisions and aim for the best outcomes for our University community. This approach is new to Higher Education which can at times feel scary but we are evolving our approach by learning from when we get things wrong, by celebrating when we get things right, but most importantly by measuring and observing the positive impact we are having on the student and staff experience.

Please do get in touch if you would like to chat, find out more or share your experiences of service design and transformation in Higher Education. You can also find out more about what we are doing on our web pages.

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Service Design in Education

Service Design in Education

Service Design in Education Network is a group of diverse individuals with one aim & passion to change education for the better using human centred design