Designing for professional services

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Regardless of the industry in which we work, we cannot control customers’ expectations of the services our businesses provide.

We’re all becoming used to services that are more personalised, proactive, real-time and rewarding because we encounter these qualities every day in sectors such as retail, hospitality, travel and banking.

Regardless of whether you are focused on a B2C or B2B client base, keeping up with our customers’ expectations and ahead of emerging trends is a universal challenge.

So, what does this mean for professional services firms and where are the opportunities for delivering more responsive, tailored and intuitive solutions?

The value of professional services has always been based on the expertise of practitioners in their respective fields. Years of training, certification and licensing helped establish ‘classic’ professional service practices as the exclusive authority for accessing knowledge and advice from architects, accountants, engineers, doctors and lawyers.

These sectors have seen major reform and change through regulation, consolidation, globalisation and an extended new-wave has emerged in tax advisors, management and IT consultants, marketing, PR and R&D specialists, amongst others.

The historic exclusivity of this advisory domain meant that business was done very much on the provider’s terms and consumers felt somewhat unqualified to question the authority of the professional or their ways of working.

In many of these trades there are certain procedures and workflows to follow, be that legal process, the RIBA Plan of Work, RICS professional standards or the medical referrals process, for instance, but more and more so, customers and clients are now looking to define their own pathways. They’re able to conduct initial research to inform themselves, buy parcels of consultancy and advice, or indeed self-serve certain elements to reduce costs and feel more in control.

The internet has given customers a wealth of information at their fingertips and now allows them to compare professionals online for price, skill-set and reputation, before engaging. Certain aspects of service delivery have also become more commoditised, as being a knowledgeable expert becomes less of a differentiator for more commonplace tasks.

A changing landscape
In direct competition with established providers, new competitors have emerged, causing category-changing disruption by launching simple solutions to previously complex tasks.

In law, we see the emergence of tools that apply artificial intelligence to assist with contract reading and legislative compliance, comparison sites that enable lawyer selection based on win-rate data, and home-move platforms that allow estate agents, mortgage brokers, solicitors, conveyancers and homebuyers to track in real-time every stage of their property transaction.

In healthcare, there are new ways of connecting digitally with GPs on-demand and subscription services for prescription delivery, wearable technology that helps monitor and transmit vital data to manage conditions and make lifestyle recommendations, and new B2B solutions to solve staff availability challenges for the NHS, Local Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts.

We’re also seeing advice and guidance delivered at scale using new technology, or an AI / human mix in financial services, travel and retail. PWC forecast that AI could contribute an additional $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030 and Accenture suggests the professional services sector will benefit from the 2nd highest increase in industry output (9.3%) as a result of the adoption of AI.

Successful companies have worked hard to integrate AI into the design of frictionless experiences that put the customer at the heart. By automating the most common tasks, staff are freed up to accommodate customers facing more significant issues.

And that’s where technology can really deliver value. Both on the front line and behind the scenes, digital tools and technology can strip away more functional, mundane and commonplace tasks from the human to-do list, allowing staff to focus on empathising, problem-solving, connecting with customers and being more creative.

So, technology is proving more effective and valuable for both lower-level, administrative ‘jobs to be done’, and delivering instant information and connectivity to frontline service teams, but at certain points where there’s complexity, ambiguity or just a personal preference, expert human intervention is still required.

Real-time technical advice, building relationships, consultative selling, understanding personal circumstances, handling service disruption and resolving issues are best handled by people, supported by technology to inform and empower them.

The good news is that, in Service Design, there’s a structured, creative and proven methodology for defining how best to integrate technology, designing new staff interactions and behaviours and tackling client experience and operational challenges.

The questions we can help you answer:

  • How to drive consistent service delivery through colleagues operating across different business units and regions?
  • Identifying the functions to migrate to digital, self-serve platforms to reduce operating costs but help maintain relationships?
  • How to create a compelling future vision and proposition for your client experience that the whole organisation can work towards?
  • How to design a more engaging and rewarding colleague experience to attract and retain the best talent.
  • How to inspire a more client-centric culture in a partnership model business?
  • How to increase conversion and loyalty by optimising the experience at key stages of the journey and touchpoints?

More mature organisations, that have seen the benefit of reimagining and developing their client experience, are also applying design-led approaches to improve their business processes and the interdepartmental services that provide support to internal colleagues, such as procurement, legal, IT and HR.

If you’d like to find out more, do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.


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