Service design is not just another trendy catch-phrase. It’s a better way of designing digital and offline experiences that truly meet citizens’ needs. It’s a dynamic and adaptive process that can create elegant and effective health and public services solutions, without huge investments of time or money.

In my previous post, I looked at how service design can help government organizations create citizen interactions that are “just right.” In this post, we’ll look at two examples of service design being used effectively.

Putting design at the heart of social service delivery

In our first example, let’s look at Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI), the largest social service organization in the State of Illinois. LSSI faced a number of challenges, including communication and consistency difficulties that occur when a client is offered services by disparate social services organizations.

Using a service design approach, Fjord, part of Accenture Interactive, worked with LSSI to develop a Whole Person Care Journey. This tool provides:

  • A "warm welcome", replacing the more conventional sign-in process with one that feels more like a “hand shake” between the person and their care provider. The check-in view displays non-sensitive personal information that enables the provider to greet their clients more warmly, like they are known to the organization they are visiting and that their appointment is important.
  • A visual journey through treatment allows case managers to more quickly determine if their client successfully linked to another social service provider. The idea is that this will also help case managers identify which particular activities help their clients stay on a successful treatment path.
  • Network health analytics. Aggregating, viewing and sharing hard numbers used to be a time-consuming process at LSSI. The new analytics capability aims to provide administrators with a high-level view of the metrics that matter the most.

By designing the Whole Person Care Journey from the ground up using a service design approach, the team were able to provide case managers with a holistic view of how their clients access social services. It’s a tool that puts citizens at the heart of matters—where they should be. You can learn more about their groundbreaking work and results that sparked the New Mexico Human Services Department to embrace a similar approach in this recent Policy & Practice article.

Combining empathy and virtual reality for wheelchair users

In this second example, the Fjord Makeshop team wanted to experiment with ways virtual reality (VR) can facilitate empathy to help people understand unfamiliar situations. When they interviewed wheelchair users, common patterns and problems emerged, including:

  • Stories about disastrous first days in wheelchairs.
  • The challenges of understanding a complex new environment.
  • Navigating areas where pedestrians don’t understand the needs of wheelchair users.
  • Difficulties developing an understanding for angles of concrete and the height of curbs.

From further research, the team also discovered that wheelchair users face challenges with articulate steering, spatial relationships and negotiating obstacles.

With the goal of easing a user's stressful first foray with a wheelchair, the team sought to design a VR prototype. Of primary importance was ensuring that the experience didn’t feel like a game that was superficial or insensitive, but was respectful, compelling and immersive. This level of thought and consideration is a key part of the service design approach and one that really sets it apart from requirements-based approaches.

From these examples, I think it becomes clear why service design and user-centered design should be a key part of designing services for citizens. When government organizations understand user stories, they have a better foundation for addressing key challenges and pain points, as well as making huge strides in improving citizen experiences.

To learn more, you can read another example of design thinking in action and how it fits in with broader digital transformation. Follow me on LinkedIn or Twitter to keep up to date with our latest thinking.

Dan Boxwell

Managing Director – Consulting, Public Service

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