Sarah Drummond of Snook is working with the OPEN Glasgow team to re-envisage city services around waste management and road repairs.

Every time I jump in a Glasgow taxi I’m asked the inevitable question,

“So hen, what do you do?”
“Well, you see, I’m a Service Designer.”
“What’s that? You build websites?”
“Er, sort of”

What is Service Design?

Service Design is an umbrella of multiple disciplines coming together to rethink how processes work for people.

A Service is made up of a series of touch points: this might be a ticket machine, a phone line, a website or a branded poster. As ‘customers’ undertaking a transaction, these touch points become a user journey. Services can be rather complex, but the process of Service Design can break them down into understandable chunks. It puts people, both who consume and deliver services, at the heart of this process. Essentially, the question is how can we make these services better and more efficient for people?

Service Design is largely about storytelling. When a service doesn’t go well, you tend to complain about it: “The bins haven’t been lifted again, the back yard is filthy”, “That GP phone line just keeps buzzing out, I can’t get an appointment”, “The bank’s had me on hold for twenty minutes”. What if we turned those phrases on their head: “The streets are looking clean, pick up is on Thursday” or you don’t even notice because the service is so flawless. Think of it as re-telling future stories by designing new possibilities and thinking through the lens of people and the narratives they’d like to tell.

Let’s apply this thinking to a city and local authority. Councils deliver a range of complex services from council tax to waste management. Imagine for one second, what would happen if our bins stopped getting collected? Or it was easy to report a pothole?

There’s real need to consider how we deliver multi-channel experiences to the public in a smart, uncomplicated and useful way. And hey, even throw in some delightful moments too; who said Councils couldn’t surprise their customers?

Imagining future services

Snook have been working with Open Glasgow on two tracks: Waste Management and Road Maintenance. We’re looking at future possibilities and how services should and could work for people:

  • What do people need, how do we create new narratives to diffuse frustration?
  • What technology and political/social trends will likely evolve across the next 50 years that will influence the design of future services?

We believe good design requires meeting the people who will use the final products. So we’ve been out meeting cyclists, bus drivers and community activists from all over Glasgow to understand their experiences of waste and roads.

We use ethnographic methods to drill down to the motivations; behaviours and responses people have to the themes we are researching. We spend time talking with people in their environments as well as using a variety of visual methods to stimulate people’s responses. We say goodbye to closed focus groups in white wall rooms and hello to photographing how people collect recycling in a cardboard box in their kitchen to understand how they behave in relation to waste.

We have been using Go Pro cameras attached to our chests and bike helmets to replay what the city looks like from a citizen perspective during our journeys from home to work and around our communities. We use this powerful piece of film to interview people and trigger ideas for improvement.

Imagining the future citizen-to-Council relationship

The relationship between people and the Council has been a recurring theme and will be a fundamental underpinning structure to the service development. How might we move from a Council-to-people model to a citizen-to-citizen model, with the Council supporting this structure?

Currently, people – frustrated by the lack of response – become apathetic and in the long run, will stop interfacing with the council if they don’t have to or will turn to alternative private services.

What if Councils pivoted on their role and offered products and services that supported people to improve society around them and work with each other? Stay tunes for updates soon and until then, you can see the progress here