The only person that everyone has in common is the customer – Interview with Ben Reason of Livework


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Today’s interview is with Ben Reason, founding partner of Livework, a leading service design firm. They help organisations with customer related challenges and how they affect the business and the organisation. Ben along with Lavrans Løvlie and Melvin Brand Flu, two other Livework partners, has recently published a new book called Service Design for Business: A Practical Guide to Optimizing the Customer Experience. Ben joins me today to talk about the book, what they have learnt, service design and how firms can use it to improve their customer experience.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Why Should Anyone Work Here? – Interview with Gareth Jones – and is number 164 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to their customers.

Highlights of my interview with Ben:

  • Livework are a bit of a hybrid firm in that they get involved with designing and making things for clients but they also get involved with more strategic consulting opportunities as well as working with clients on implementation.
  • I have interviewed one of Ben’s fellow partners, Melvin Brand Flu before on this podcast in Do you know if you are irritating your customers?
  • Ben along with Lavrans Løvlie and Melvin Brand Flu, two other Livework partners recently published a book called Service Design for Business: A Practical Guide to Optimizing the Customer Experience.
  • The idea for the book came about as they were doing a lot of interesting work about five years ago but not enough things were going forward.
  • As a result, they realised that there was probably a gap in what they were doing in understanding how their design work would translate into culture or operational change.
  • Therefore, they invited Melvin, who they had been working with as a client, to join them as a business partner to help them build the organisational change element and improve the impact of their work.
  • The book is the story of Livework’s journey to date, how firms can incorporate service design into their organisations and how they can make it more business relevant and usable.
  • In fact, the book is full of accumulated learning, case studies, tools, experience but is also a statement of how Livework approaches customer challenges for clients.
  • The book is structured around 12 challenges that they have seen a number of their clients have and each is accompanied by a case study to illustrate the challenge and how it can be addressed.
  • The challenges are:
    • Customer challenges
      • Challenge 1: Get the basics right and achieve customer experience excellence
      • Challenge 2 : Prevent customer irritations and failures
      • Challenge 3 : Engage customers effectively
      • Challenge 4 : High impact customer innovations
    • Business challenges
      • Challenge 5 : Innovate new business concepts
      • Challenge 6 : Becoming a more digital business
      • Challenge 7 : Achieve higher customer performance
      • Challenge 8 : Successful launch and adoption of a new product or service
    • Organisational challenges
      • Challenge 9 : Foster internal alignment and collaboration
      • Challenge 10 : Deliver better staff engagement and participation
      • Challenge 11 : Build a customer centric organisation
      • Challenge 12 : Building a more agile organisation
  • Many firms talk about being collaborative but few are and most find it difficult. A service design approach offers a great set of tools that foster a collaborative approach.
  • The only person that everyone has in common is the customer.
  • We sometimes think that service design is an activity that everyone does and it’s useful to have some designers in the mix.
  • One of the case studies in the book features Norwegian insurer Gjensidige, which challenged Livework to help them understand and deliver what ‘more simple insurance’ would look like.
  • Ben tells another story about how they have helped re-engineer a travel insurance claim process where they identified that one of the main annoyances for customers when making a claim was that they were asked for their policy number.
  • Given that the customer is probably in a state of great stress if they are making a claim, they found out that this was having a negative impact on the customer’s experience. To improve that, they suggested that the agents should first ask how the customer was and what had happened. This helped put the ‘call’ on a much better footing and lead to a much better and smoother customer experience.
  • For anyone wanting to start on a service design journey and to start to use it to improve their customer experience, Ben advocates starting by figuring out how you can bring the customer into the organisation in tangible ways.
  • He suggests that a good first step is to go and talk to customers and then video what they have to say.
  • He advocates that this is better done informally through observation, immersion and going out into the field rather than using more formal research methods as it will give people from the organisation a more ‘visceral’ feel of what is happening in the customner’s experience.
  • Using a service design approach, because it is very visual and involves making prototypes, can also help business make decisions surrounding new initiatives and business models.
  • Ben illustrates this by telling a story about how they made a prototype of a new premium service initiative for Orange. They put the prototype in front of the client in a meeting and the client promptly picked it up, ran off with it and implemented it as they could instantly see that that was what they were trying to achieve.
  • To help people make decisions about new initiatives or ideas make it real.
  • Some service design books are quite weighty and dense tomes but this book is very practical, case study and tool rich. You can check out more background to the book here and pick up a copy here: Service Design for Business: A Practical Guide to Optimizing the Customer Experience.

About Ben (adapted from his Livework bio)

Ben ReasonBen is a founding partner of Livework having set-up the company in 2001. He now leads the London studio on service design and innovation projects for both UK and international clients.

In his time at Livework he has worked with multinational companies and exciting start-ups with a focus on service thinking and developing their service design methods and approach. His background is with internet and digital projects having previously worked for a number of large digital agencies.

Having experience of an extremely wide range of clients in very differing sectors with different challenges he has developed an understanding of what works on innovation, design and strategy projects. He knows how simple customer insight can help organisations rethink what they do and focus on what matters.

Livework’s working style is collaborative and team based, internally and with clients. He helps their team understand how they can work in this way on projects for the best results. He is able to see the big picture and zoom into specific details to connect experience to strategy.

They started Livework because they wanted to have a positive impact on the way people live and work. He is very proud that this ethos of optimism and practical application characterises the attitude of the whole team making Livework days exciting and stimulating.

“My daughter figured out what I do: ‘You find things that don’t work and design ways to make them better’”

You can find out more about the book here and pick up a copy here: Service Design for Business: A Practical Guide to Optimizing the Customer Experience.

Finally, you can connect with Ben on LinkedIn here and say Hi to him and the folks at Livework or Twitter @breasy and @Liveworkstudio.

Photo Credit: boellstiftung via Compfight cc

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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