Nick Charlton

Book Review: How To Have Your Cake And Eat It Too: An Introduction to Service Design

Whilst I do spend most of my time writing code, I’m also a consultant. Every year I work with a bunch of small companies, founders and those who are running teams in much larger organisations. These are people who do care about the quality of the code I might produce, how well tested it is and that decisions have been made for the long term, but that’s all a bit moot if we’re not building the right thing for their customers.

Over the last few years, government and large enterprises have gradually started to come around to what’s made new upstarts so successful: focusing on the user and their needs.

For the new upstarts, some of this has been easy. They don’t have decades worth of processes and organisational structure which stands in the way of delivering on their goals. For successful new companies, they can be arranged from the customers’ perspectives from the start. If they’re not, they’re young and small enough to iterate towards this quickly (or simply just not make it). For existing organisations, this is rarely the case.

Service Design is a collection of tools which allow you to find out what customers actually value in a given service or product.

These can be answered by building personas, drawing out customer journey maps and then doing customer interviews to fill in the gaps.

The consultant is a product of the tools in their toolbox. I’ve participated in several, and reasonably recently run a design sprint. I’ve built products using various flavours (and in various levels of dysfunction) of agile. But I’d been hunting for something out of those which is missing, and a step into this “service design” thing I’d been hearing about regularly.

J. Margus Klaar presents us with a brief overview of all of the above. At 106 pages, it’s short enough to read and digest in a couple of hours and present you with another collection of tools to have at your disposal.

They discuss how consumer actions have changed over the past fifty years and how in reaction to the world changing, people’s behaviour has changed. They discuss cases where looking at customer pain points have driven innovative solutions (like Apple and short mouse cables because they put a USB hub in the keyboard) and cases where customer relationships have completely changed from where the organisation once believed they were (e.g.: young people and not caring about their banks).

Then they go on to outline the common tools for delivering this customer focus. User journeys, personas, empathy maps, interviews, touch-points.

The book covers these quite well but doesn’t go into how to use them in detail or run them in a session or workshop. For example, a good chunk of the book discusses talking to users but seems to avoid providing example questions someone might ask. This is probably partly a requirement (the nature of those questions would emerge from the process) and also helpful in not prescribing how to use them.

One of the most important parts of this process is that it is visual and these are shown with a collection of illustrations. I can see myself copying many of them out onto a whiteboard in the future…

Broadly, I found the examples easy to understand and extract something from. But I would have liked to see some more in-depth case studies showing how changes had successfully been bought out using these tools.

If you’re looking for one resource to point to, that covers the basics and is concise, I’d recommend this.

You can find it on Amazon.