Service Design days in Barcelona – My takeaway Service Design days in Barcelona – My takeaway

Service Design days in Barcelona – My takeaway

by ,
on 3 November 2017


I was lucky enough to attend the Service Design Days on October 6th and 7th in Barcelona. Two days of conference filled with keynotes, case studies and workshops. I’d like to share a few lessons that I learned there: 

#1 3 Service design trends.

We live in an expectation economy. The best companies are setting those expectations (Apple’s customer service, Uber’s ease of use,  Amazon’s reliability and quickness etc…). 

But those expectations evolve all the time. So can we meet and surpass them to stay in the game?

Henry Mason from TrendWatching argues that we should be looking for innovations customers love, even if it is only a handful of customers. 

He shared with us three trends that he believes will be shaping our future. 


Trend #1 A high level of personnalisation will soon be demanded by customers.

We are moving from active personalization (Nike id started in 1999) to passive personalization (Spotify weekly playlist for example). Customer will increasingly demand to be understood and served individually. It is called « Segment of one ». It is becoming the norm online, and it will move offline very soon. 

A few examples are Expedia experimenting with facial tracking, Smashbox with eye-tracking and a Wine testing company even started recommandations based on DNA


Trend #2 Virtual assistants will shift to virtual companions. 

The fact that Apple is hiring someone with a psychology background to work on Siri is a signal of where things are heading. Aloe apps already looks after youWoebot app will check-in with you like a therapist would,  Replika uses AI to enable people to build a totally unique digital friend. Blue Leaf Café even lets you dinner with a virtual pop star.


Trend #3  « A-commerce » automatic, automated commerce is the next thing. 

We live in an on demand decade. Pair it with the AI avalanche, it suggests  the following: Why should you think about the product you need? AIl could think for you. Amazon replenishment service (launched in 2015) reorders things you need before you run out of them. Automatic savings account services Finery manages your wardrobes and manages your purchases. Pirelli tracks tire data and books appointments. ICA, Postcard & Glue deliver groceries directly to your fridge. 

Some innovation can set new expectations for customer. What thinking can we eliminate for customers? What purchase or service could we automate?

Let’s look for innovations and how they might set new expectations from our customers.


#2 How Uber got started in Egypt

Globalisation is homogenizing our society : same food, same coffee, same music.

It creates of void of culture diversity and global business and brands are struggling with “cultural fragmentation” : How to connect localised knowledges with the global meaning of the brand?

Here is the story of how Saswati Saha Mitra (Uber) and Joanna Brassett (Studio INTO) worked together to help making Uber successful in Egypt.

Uber launched in Cairo in 2015. Since Egypt is a very service oriented culture, Uber’s team decided to do a semi online/offline on boarding / sign-up. So they partnered up with a local physical agency to have them sit down with drivers and help them through the process. It worked well but had inefficiencies : Hard copies of documents where getting lost, storage was challenging and so on. So when they thought they where implanted enough, they decided to move to a more online on boarding. They thought it would work because it was the way it was done in other countries. But it didn’t exactly go as planned: Within the first month, 50% of the drivers starting the process gave up in the middle of it. So that brought the question: What was unique to Egypt so it didn’t work? 

They guessed it was probably cultural. So instead of running a usability study, they looked at how was the on boarding beyond the form. How do people interact with apps? What are the social movements? What influences behaviors? What does the employment crisis mean to the on-boarding crisis? What is the meaning of internet? What is the view of foreign brands? In order to answer those question they asked for the Help of Mohamed, one of the 84 cultural guides working for Uber in 64 countries.

During 28 days of on boarding, Mohamed was in touch on a daily basis with 10 drivers through messaging app asking them questions and asking them to do tasks (notes, videos, pictures, explaining etc.). 

He then contextualized the behaviors.

One takeaway was that  English had social status so drivers where switching their phones in English, even though they where not very good. Just because it looked good. So the on boarding of Uber was in English. Uber’s response to this finding was to mix English and Arabic in the onboarding process.

Another takeaway was the value of internet: Egypt not only has one of the slowest internet in the world, but Egyptians also simply don’t trust it. So whenever drivers had trouble uploading large files during the onboarding, they would turn to other trusted drivers’ Facebook pages that where creating good, helpful content. But those where difficult to find. 

So in response, Uber removed videos from the on boarding and replaced them with flickable images. They also started showcasing tips and help on the Uber’s Facebook page. 

Those steps allowed Uber to dramatically improve their boarding for Egyptian drivers.  

As Saswati Saha Mitra explained us, “one size fits all ” cannot work anymore for global brands. One of Uber’s many challenges is to deliver a great experience tailored to any given culture (Scooter in Jakarta, boats in Cairo etc) and then scaling it through pattern discovery, just like they did with Mohamed in Egypt.


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Service Design days in Barcelona – My takeaway