Design Leader Insights - Michelle Hyams on Service Design

February 21, 2023


Alex Smith: Hi Michelle, thanks so much for joining the show today.

Michelle Hyams: Hi Alex, thanks so much for having me. 

Alex Smith: And you're joining all the way from Melbourne across the world. So definitely some different time zones going on right now. But to get started, can you tell the audience a little bit about your journey in design? 

Michelle Hyams: So I started in design in the early 90s, a long time ago, practicing as an industrial designer. So for the first 20 years of my career, I worked in industrial design, and manufacturing, creating products that could be used by humans.

Alex Smith: Yeah.

Michelle Hyams: But they were tactical products, things that you could hold or sit on and use. I've designed beer bottles, I've designed welders for construction sites, kettles, mobile phones, office furniture, safety equipment. And the most fun job I had in as an industrial designer was working in a startup, looking at biomedical equipment. I had also spent a number of years lecturing at universities, what you call colleges, in design, and I'd heard about this emerging field of  experience design back in 2010. And I, you know, really studied the growth of this experience design space and experience design, to me encompasses service design, UX design, CX design, all of these acronyms. And I really became fascinated by it. So I retrained about seven years ago, and have been practicing service design ever since. 

Alex Smith: So tell us a little bit about service design, and maybe some of the key parts that you advocated for at organizations or how you improve service design, or your philosophy on it.

Michelle Hyams: So I don't talk jargon, or theories so much. So what is my approach? I like this analogy that they teach when you're learning service design. Imagine you're a... you're going to see a show, a theater show. And you're, you bought your ticket and your journey to the theater. And now you're entering the theater and you're sitting down in your seat. So what you see as the customer of the show is you see the front of the stage, you see the curtains, you see the the prompts, you might look down into the orchestra are a little bit of a bit of a peek, but you're watching the show that the actors and the directors are performing for you. What you don't see is behind the scenes, you've got all of these different people helping to make it happen. You've got your costume designers, you've got your prop designers, you've got your lighting people, your sound people, you know. There's all of these different professions that have to work together and cross collaborate, to deliver that show that you're watching on stage. And that's what service design is, is like, you know, we are, we are stitching together all of these different segments within an organization to deliver an experience that the customer receives. Now, the one thing that you have to also keep in mind is the customer is not just always the end consumer of, of the business or the service that you're delivering. The customer is also the employee. And the customer, I look at the employee as just as important to design for as the end user. Because they're the ones who have to make the end user happy in the end, and even in the digital realm as well, it's the same. So I've recently joined Ernst & Young here in Melbourne, Australia, as a Director of Design in the digital and emerging technology space. However, what a lot of people may not know about Ernst & Young, is that we're not just a tax and auditing and accounting firm. We are actually a global technology advisory firm. So we do a lot of consulting across the globe,on you know, design and technology builds, quite simply. So from a design perspective Ernst & Young have over 1500 designers all across the globe. We have design studios, you know all across the United States, a very strong studio up in Denmark, called Doberman. Through to China and into Hong Kong. And here in Australia, we have a design team of 100 plus people spread across our business here. And design being UX designers, UI designers, and I specifically split them out because they have both crafts, as well as professions, content designers, service designers, business designers, etc, etc, etc.

Alex Smith: So how do you make these trade offs with digitizing fully or integrating support? Like, I think that's really an interesting compromise, sometimes with services design.

Michelle Hyams: Very much so. So that the first thing that I learned during service design was the, you know, the Venn diagram of innovation, where you've got desirability, viability, and feasibility. And you really have to balance the three in order to even make incremental improvements for the humans that you're designing for. Because as much as a customer may want to speak to a person in the branch, for example, the business is seeing that the actual traffic to that branch has reduced by 50% over the last five years. So therefore, they make a commercial decision to close that branch, because they're just not getting those customers, you know, enough customers into validate keeping it open. So how do you actually balance that and still give that customer experience? Well, that's where, okay, contact center comes into play. You want to be able to call someone and speak to a human, who can empathize with you and understand your pain of what you're trying to resolve. And then, again, there's that balance of, well, we want to give the customer that desired experience. But then we've got a balanced business, business requirements to run the call center, and the viability of you know, having extremely extended phone calls versus trying to solve the problem as fast as possible. 

Alex Smith: Yeah. 

Michelle Hyams: And my first job in finance was working in a call center, or contact center. And, you know, my empathy for call centers just grew. And my patience now has really grown because as a customer,I would call through and I'd be like, oh my God, I'm on hold for 15 minutes. And then I speak to someone and I take my frustration out on that someone.But coming behind the scene, you know, that emerald curtain that you get in the Wizard of Oz, going behind the curtain, and it's sitting with those people who are responding to the calls. They're just doing their best.

Alex Smith: Yeah, oh 100 percent. 

Michelle Hyams: And they've got their own strings and, you know, demands that they have to meet as well to even keep their jobs.

Alex Smith: Michelle, switching gears here, what advice would you have to new designers entering the field today?

Michelle Hyams: So interesting, I find the letter P is a fantastic letter. Because my advice to designers is, you need to be persistent. Okay. You need to keep trying, like you're going to get knocked backs, we've all had knock backs. I've had many knock backs in my career. And if you are passionate about design, then be persistent. The other thing you have to do is be patient. And this is the advice that I give to a lot of students that I've mentored over the years, to the graduates that I work with now, is two years experience is not experience. two years experience is not experience. A university degree is not enough experience. University or a vocational course, gives you 10% of the learning that you need just to put the foot in the door. Right? And you have to be patient and you have to learn the craft and you have to understand the challenges, the problems, the many multiple different ways that you can solve these issues, and you have to learn it from the bottom up and you have to actually go through your apprenticeship. And learn. And then you will grow from that if you need to put your foundations into your profession to be able to, you know, grow where you want to grow. Do you want to become a craft leader? And just practice the design craft that you love? Do you want to become a people leader? In which case you have to build so many other skills around how to manage people, how to speak with people, how to coach, when to choose to be a mentor, versus being a director? You balance and finding that balance. And you can only find, you can only learn those skills through experience of doing.

Alex Smith: Well, Michelle, thanks so much for being on the show today.

Michelle Hyams: You're welcome. Thank you, Alex so much for inviting me. I've really enjoyed this chat.