The User in Service Automation

The Service Automation Framework is centered around the User. In order to make effective and valuable services, a first step an organization therefore needs to take is to understand its Users. Who are they and what do they like? Although this sounds very simple, it is a step that is frequently overlooked by service providers. If an organization understands its Users, it becomes possible to design an optimal User Experience (UX). In the first block of the Service Automation Framework, the objective is to understand the User.

There are many methods available to examine User preferences. The Service Automation Framework uses the method of defining User Groups, User Characteristics and User Actions. This approach was chosen for two important reasons:

  1. Service providers of automated services frequently deliver services to large groups of homogenous Users. Therefore, it is important to determine uniform User Groups and User Characteristics.
  2. Automated services need to be fully automated. Therefore, it is required to exactly understand User Actions so that they can be turned into scripts.

Determining the User Groups of services is a valuable exercise. It will provide insight in the types of users that a service provider currently has and, more importantly, the types of User a service provider aspires to have. A detailed description of User Groups will give clear and valuable input to the Service Design phase of Service Automation. Knowing the User is the first step to achieving an optimal Users Experience.

Building User Groups and User Characteristics Charts

The Service Automation Framework provides a structured way to determine User Groups and User characteristics. Service providers can use User Characteristics Chart, as indicated in the example below.  A User Characteristics Chart (SAFT1) is a template that provides key information about the Users of an automated services. The chart combines demographic information about users, together with psychographic criteria that users find important. Psychographic criteria are elements that users find important in evaluating services. Various studies have indicated that a service experience is judged on five key psychographic criteria:

  1. Information availability and content. The availability and depth of information are frequently key elements in the way services are perceived. Limited or wrong information makes us question the trustworthiness of any service provider, especially when dealing with self-service solutions. One of the key reasons people prefer self-service solutions is that they believe more information is available online, or because they think their questions can be answered more quickly and effectively using an online channel.
  2. Ease of use. Given that portal-based interactions might seem complex and distant to some users, the ease of use of self-service solutions can be a defining criterion in establishing the overall User Experience. Depending on the types of service, ease of use is an important determinant of the perceived value of a service.
  3. Privacy and security. Both a hygiene factor as well as a differentiator for service providers, privacy and security are key evaluative criteria in the delivery of automated services.
  4. Graphic style. Various studies have found that the graphic style of online portals and websites is an important determinant in shaping the Service Perception and user experience. Graphic style involves such issues as color, layout, print size and font, number of photographs, graphics and animations.
  5. Fulfillment and reliability. The dominant dimensions in traditional service quality, namely fulfillment and reliability are also cited as important factors in perceived (automated) service value. In fact, some research found that reliability and fulfillment ratings for some User Groups form one of the strongest predictors of determining the overall User Experience. While fulfillment and reliability are primarily concerned with the core service delivery, reliability may also reflect technical reliability, such as the proper functioning of a website.

With the demographic information and psychographic criteria, service providers can compose a User Characteristics Chart. If you want to download a blank User Characteristics Chart, you can download the free materials that accompany the Service Automation Framework book.

Example User Characteristics Charts

In order to see how User Characteristics Charts are used in practice, we have provided a simple example. The example below shows the User Characteristics Chart of Uber drivers. In order to provide an optimal user experience for an Uber driver, the service provider (in this case Uber) needs to understand what the key characteristics of the User Group:

User Characteristics Chart | Service Automation

The  User Characteristic Charts describes above describes a very important User Group of Uber. Because Uber operates a platform with two types of users (Uber drivers and Uber riders), it is important to understand the key characteristics of each group. Based on the information above, Uber needs to take different approach to service design for Uber drivers in order to achieve an optimal user experience. The User Characteristics Chart is a helpful tool to quickly identify key information about Users.