Product or Service

Most software product companies desire to shift to ‘Subscription model’ from selling Perpetual licenses. I am calling it a transition from Selling Products to Offering Service. Microsoft and Adobe are two representative successful examples (and many others) of this type of transition. Both of them have successfully transited their flagship products to Service offerings, or pay per use model.

The Design and Development teams need to understand what does it mean to Offer Service if you are planning for such a transition.

Primary, the difference between the two models is; in the Product model, customers make pay in advance to buy the product and later start using it. In the new Service model, customers get to use the product first, and if they are Satisfied, they will pay, and continue to pay.

Designing experience for service means designing the cComplete service lifecycle experience. Designers need to understand the complete lifecycle of the service that they are going to design.

Here is a graphical representation of a generic Service Lifecycle:

Discovery – Sign Up – Getting started – First-time use –  Purchase – Successful use – Loyalty

Designing for the service lifecycle is in turn, designing for every phase of the above-mentioned lifecycle. Each phase would have different Touchpoints for stakeholders from customer organization, mainly Users. The types of Touchpoints would vary as per type of business. These Touchpoints of this interaction might include; Marketing web portal, Different sales channels, Advertisements, the GUI of the service, and much more. Service design is not just designing these channels separately, but creating a unified, cohesive experience to the users and customers.

Let’s explore these phases and find a few touchpoints involved.

  • Discovery:

How users and Customers discover your service is an important phase. Appropriate channels of promotion, catchy demo videos, free mobile apps, Basic product portal, Communities are a few of the touchpoints companies use to acquire new customers. Well-orchestrated use of messaging, videos, social feeds at the right forums, communities, would be possible only if the marketing team plays well with other teams in your organization.  

  • Sign Up:

After the service is Discovered, the next phase is getting the customers signed up. Offering free and trouble free sign up process is key touchpoint to be designed here. You will need to create a compelling pitch of how your service will solve a critical problem.  A compelling pitch may include, giving the users a taste of how they will benefit from the service. Showcasing a successful ‘end state’ of the usage, where users can visualize the benefits of the service might help. Here is what your Dashboard will look like when your organization starts using this service, and of course this is how much it will benefit your business, always makes a compelling pitch.

  • Getting started:

Once the users’ signup, building some mechanism of ‘familiarization’ of the touch points (Mainly the UI here) is important, that makes the users comfortable with how to get started. A ‘visual walk-thru’ of how to go about using this service, where to find all the tools, and what ‘actions’ are available, and so on. Simple overlays on the GUI, guiding and familiarizing them with where, and how questions would make the experience quick. Getting started Touchpoint should be very ‘crisp’ interesting. Most importantly, the user should be in a position to ‘dismiss’ the overlay and choose to refer to the same later. Many services have successfully tried illustrations, animations, and lightly humorous hand-drawn medium of instructions for this touchpoint experience. (Dropbox getting started would be a great example here.)

  • First-time use:

Next phase is the ‘first-time use’ of the service. A critical phase of all because this gives the users a real taste of pudding, and no one likes long cooking time. Providing ready to use templates, prebuild workflows, and relevant content will prove useful. Amazon offers a few free e-books to read after you sign up and open your kindle account. First time users, will not be interested in onboarding own content or build complex workflows at this stage, instead, they are in for quickly seeing what the service offers.

Complex enterprise software services could offer industry vertical specific content like object templates, sample workflows for the first time use. Remember, when you buy a new fountain pen (which is very rare nowadays :)) you desperately look for some blank paper to try the pen. Most mobile apps do a great job here, IFTTT offers some pre-built ‘Recipes’ you could start using right away. This phase is most critical in the adoption of the service. Design teams have to put in solid efforts to make sure, the first time experience is just smooth and delightful.

Main touchpoints here are in the product itself and maybe some sample reference content.

  • Purchase:

Services are generally offered free for the trial period, and customers need to pay later. Some offer free service with limited functionality and paid for premium services. This is what Flickr by Yahoo does for storing photos. Defining these Freemium models of functionalities, and realizing revenues later are the main touchpoints here. 

  • Customer Success

After the purchase, users will bring in their own content, build own workflows and explore the usage of service for their business. The stickiness of the service is the key post-purchase. The stickiness and compelling benefits of the service will ensure repeat orders and an increase of capacity later. Making the users successful faster is the key Mantra of this phase. A lot of hand-holding for getting all the roles of users involved is key to this phase. Keep on monitoring how the service is being used, using click analytics, and providing timely proactive help will go long way in making the users successful. Tools of communication, monitoring usage, and timely recommendations are few of the touchpoints to design here. Learning from customer grievances, issues, and pain points and improving the service is a continuous activity. A team of user researchers and Analysts should keep an eye on user activities, periodically publishing service satisfaction surveys, could make the service more useful.

  • Loyalty

Once the users get what they want from the service, they will become your advocates in the customer organizations. Quickly engaging the expert users, and encouraging them to actively participate in Service communities might be a great idea. Customer loyalty does not come from the customer organization, It comes from the real people satisfied Users who have successfully completed their tasks using your services. Satisfied users could eventually become passionate advocates of your services. All the users of Apple products passionately promote Apple products simply because they ‘just love’ the overall experience. You yourself would have recommended some amazing service or a mobile app that gave you a delightful experience.

Loyal customers not only keep on promoting your current service but will eagerly wait for the next service you will be offering next year.

  • Handholding, Proactive help, Support, Communities, Marketplace.

The central gray circle in the lifecycle diagram shows a continuum of all of the above-mentioned touchpoints. These tools are going to ensure customer success with the service.

Frankly, the concept of ‘after sales support’ does not hold true in this new Service paradigm. instead of Support being one Phase after purchase, it has become a continuum across phases.

A user may need a lot of handholding through the first phases, once regular use starts, a contextual and proactive availability of help will increase the stickiness. Information should be appropriately and contextually made available at the right time. In product documentation,  Getting started videos, contextual help content, are the touchpoints here.

Adopting what open source world does very efficiently might help. All open source professionals learn from each other and from the communities. Developing and nurturing Communities would be a great way to supplement all the support efforts.

To summarize the Service Lifecycle Model is like designing a continuous communication between, all the stakeholders of the system from ‘Service provider’ organization and all the relevant stakeholders from the customer organization.