milan museum

As well as established brands, we are excited about the new ventures starting up in Northern Ireland. One of these is a new Service Design startup called coffeenosugar. 

We chatted with Elizabeth from coffeenosugar to find out more about what she does and also what service design really is!

Tell us about Service Design!

Service Design is about designing services for the people who use them, involving them in the process. It's about using design to problem solve to create a service that responds to customer need. Looking at all elements in the service from the physical and tangible to the intangibles, such as interactions and sequences.  Turning weaknesses into opportunities is the hallmark of service design. Business owners however, are often too close to see the business objectively from the customer perspective.   A good example of how service design solves problems and improves customer experience can be seen from the project I worked on at the Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia in Milan. 

Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia in Milan attracts 82,520 international visitors every year. As one of the larger museums in Milan, visitors expect to find café facilities on site to allow them to break their visit for refreshments. However, with only a vending machine available, visitors often need to leave the large museum mid-way through their visit, cutting their experience short. As the funds for a new café on site won't be available until 2019, the intermediary service design brief was to find an alternative to manage this situation. Ideally to turn this problem into a strength and ultimately a positive experience. After a series of stakeholder mapping, on site observational research, customer journey mapping and contextual interviews with visitors, stakeholders and museum staff, insights were gathered to suggest solutions for the lack of cafe. A number of which were prototyped to create a map highlighting all the cafes, restaurants and eateries available in close proximity to the museum, with approximate costs, distances and type of cuisine available. This map is then given to the visitor at the outset of their visit with their ticket, thus managing expectations and giving the visitor control of their visit to plan the meal of their choice as they need it. 

How do you go about finding your niche?

I believe finding a niche is about responding to a need on the ground, rather than deciding on a business and then trying to establish a need and market. The business concept must then continue to be shaped by user need so the business can evolve as the need does. The greatest challenges businesses face today is keeping ahead of customer need. 

How did I find my niche? I noticed a cycle of new businesses opening but struggling to survive. Which I understood was because they were entering an often already saturated market without a clear concept, compounded by an over-reliance  / focus on product (we are now living in an experience economy, where the experience creates an added and sought after value). This resulted in a gap between what the customer was seeking and what the service provider delivered on the ground. Service Design is used to solve this gap worldwide, but it didn't exist in Northern Ireland even though the need was significant. I responded to this niche out of a desire to bridge the gap. 

What is the importance of a Unique Selling Point (USP)?

In a finite market such as Belfast a Unique Selling Point is crucial to become the 'go to' place for your business. Being the go to' place ensures a business can be sustainable overtime as opposed to being just one of many doing the same thing in the same way.  Businesses can only see this when they start to see their business and other businesses through the customer perspective. And unless there is something that stands out for the customer, which ultimately addresses a need for them, there is no reason for them to use that service. 

What project are you working on next?

I will be working on Reimagine 'Dublin One.'  Dublin 1 is Dublin city centre's north retail and residential quarter, within the area bounded by the Liffey Quays to the south, Capel Street to the west, Parnell Street to the north and O'Connell Street to the east.  In 2016 Dublin Town, Dublin City's Business Improvement District (BID a collective of 2,500 businesses in the city centre), undertook research to establish why Dublin city's south side exited recession sooner than the north side. The findings – lack of connectivity and permeability, poor public realm, perceptions of safety and general lack of awareness of what the area offered – led Dublin Town to initiate a programme to boost the northern quarter, called 'Dublin One'. In March the American Institute of Architects will lead a team of design professionals and Dublin Town to develop practical solutions towards the goal of creating a welcoming and economically viable city environment for Dublin. Elizabeth will be the Service Designer working with the team.