An Interview with Tekton’s Service Designer,

Esaú Espinoza

Tell me about your background pre-Tekton. How did you arrive at the role of Service Designer?

Before I became a service designer, I passed through 3 stages in my professional career.The first stage was at the beginning of my career when I was working as a trainee. My main responsibilities were automating administrative tasks using Visual Basic, doing process mapping, and finishing user manuals of the digital tools that were implemented. This experience was my first contact with using technology to solve business problems, and it was when I became passionate about the use of technology and decided to move to the Technology Services industry.

The second stage was when I worked using agile frameworks to define and lead implementation of tailored software solutions. In this stage, I developed the capabilities to design digital products from scratch and understood the implementation implications of new solutions.

Tekton's Service Designer, Esaú Espinoza

My takeaways were

1) Efforts have to focus on jobs to be done over the look and feel; 2) Planning is nothing, and planification is everything. The most important thing is to adapt, no matter if we make a wrong assumption; 3) Adoption is as important as the design of the solution, which is why it’s important to verify the perception of the target users and customers in real scenarios in early stages. It prevents rejection of the solutions and also allows us to understand how to adopt the new solution because we need to book resources to complete that; 4) There is no perfect guide. You have to ensure that everyone has the same understanding of the goal and based on that, choose the suitable tools according to the stage of the product, market/target needs, the culture of each company, number of people, team capabilities, and available resources of each project; and 5) Getting sponsors’ and stakeholders’ commitment is decisive in complex projects. They have to be involved to push their team to collaborate and be open to receive and propose new ideas when project circumstances change.

The last stage of my professional career before working as a service designer, was when I was working as a Digital Consultant in Digital Transformation initiatives. My takeaways were 1) domain a process to assess the digital maturity of an organization; 2) assess the As Is scenario to propose the most suitable mix of digital solutions and physical activities; and 3) Prioritize and define initiatives to allow scalable growth.

As a Service Designer, you understand the three basic service moments: Before, During, and After. Tell us about each phase.

If we talk about the “Before moment,” we have 2 moments here: the zero moment of truth, which refers to the customer researching a product or service before taking any action, and the consideration to purchase, or the “moment a consumer chooses a product over the other competitors’ offerings.”

“During moment” is the experienced value, or when a customer purchases/consumes a product and experiences its quality as per the promise of the brand.

“After moment” is the consumer’s feedback or reaction towards a brand, product, or service (i.e. the consumer becomes a brand advocate and ‘gives back’ via word of mouth or social media promotion).

Can service design be used to transfer an in-person project to an online-only based project?

I think it will depend on the scenario. We have to keep in mind that every challenge could be taken with different approaches, and those will depend on the budget and the certainty of the tools that will be chosen to lead the process.

Let me give you an example. Imagine we have to apply the service design process to improve experience in a supermarket. Part of the activities will be to set tools to gather data about customer behavior. We can use visual recognition to understand people’s journey into the store and cross the data with sales of the day. We can observe people in the hallways and take notes, or we can do an online survey asking about their behavior in the hallways. Which we are going to choose will depend if we have already set the infrastructure to apply each approach, the budget available to gather data, and the certainty of expectations.

In addition, we have to consider that in service design, we also use qualitative tools to understand behaviors and needs, and those tools are just as effective as quantitative tools in scenarios of high uncertainty, which is the most common state when we challenge innovation.

Nowadays, it is feasible to do online-only based projects because we have many tools that allow us to gather data and also lead interviews with digital tools that allow remote work. Nevertheless, we have to properly set the conditions to do tests, interviews, and other activities.

In order to propose the most viable solution for a given problem, do you plan and execute co-creation workshops with stakeholders? How do these workshops work?

First of all, it is necessary to have a workshop for strategic alignment. Goals must be properly set, and we have to ensure that everyone involved has a common understanding. Before holding this workshop, all participants must be committed to the challenge and set their expectations about the output of the workshop.

The goal of the workshop is to get as many ideas as possible to solve the challenge identified based on the pain points and needs identified. These ideas are not commitments, and in the next stage, we must assess the viability and feasibility of them.

We apply time boxing to properly lead the workshop. We set time to 1) explain the activities and tools we are going to use in each case, 2) explain the challenges, 3) brainstorm, 4) group similar initiatives, 5) give participants time to explain their ideas, and 6) summarize the ideas.

After the workshop, we send meeting notes to participants and ask them if they have additional comments or suggestions. After that, we can continue the process.

How do you engage your team to reach a common goal?

This is part of the strategic alignment. We need to have “the same understanding of the golas” so that everyone knows the aims and benefits expected after solving this challenge and understands how involved they need to be. Besides, it is important that stakeholders and sponsors provide clarity to prioritize daily tasks and commit to this project.

With a common understanding of the goals and efforts that it involves, we can prioritize other activities over the ones related to the project so we can engage the whole team.

What kind of projects or products excite you the most? Tell us about your favorite project.

I love complex scenarios. A project can be complex due to many aspects, like the culture, lead with the unknown, quantitative stakeholders involved, budget constraints, among others. I love to lead with the unknown or get involved with projects that involve many stakeholders.

Each one has a particular challenge and takeaways. They also have different challenges in the empathize phase, the definition phase, or the prototyping phase. Either way, I love researching and learning, especially with ones that challenge me to go deeper into the industry or explore innovative solutions to design the service engine.

Describe any obstacles you’ve encountered on a recent project and your contribution to its success.

I think that my background leading software development implementations helps me contribute a lot on the empathize and prototyping phases. I remember a recent project where we were looking to capture some data to understand customer behavior, and my knowledge of the operation of the digital assets and tools of our client let me propose a way to capture the data. We were underusing some tools, and also, due to budget constraints, my knowledge let me propose affordable alternatives that were suitable for a short-term scenario and allowed us to scale when necessary.

What are some of the resources you rely on to prototype services and validate ideas?

It is more important for a particular feature to ensure the whole value perspective. This is critical to avoid working on initiatives people do not value. That is why we have different tools.

At a strategic level, we can use a value proposition canvas, design the box exercise, and validate with surveys or in a focus group. These let us confirm the perceived value of the solution.

At a tactical level, we can use low/mid/high fidelity prototypes that we can test and let us confirm if a feature is useful and has a great usability to our target.

What are some goals or strategies you plan to implement in 2022?

Everyone on the team has a custom growth path. In my case, my strengths are related to quantitative tools used in the different phases. My personal challenge is to have a better domain of some qualitative methods and tools and to ensure that I would like to take some of the “Show & Tells” spaces, share knowledge or business cases to the whole company, and present a workshop of how to apply these tools and show the results of a real scenario with a case study. I believe the best way to ensure the domain of a new skill is when you are ready to teach it.

Any tips to learn more about service design and how to become a service designer?

While it’s important to have technical skills, which imply knowing service design and design thinking tools to lead the process, soft skills are more important and more difficult to develop. To feel comfortable in the role, you have to be a good listener, empathic, open to new ideas, avoid taking things for granted, and enjoy the process of doing the heavy stuff in order to understand customer behavior.