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Jan 7, 2019 2:05:32 PM

Service design and growth hacking

Fabian Häusler

Senior Consultant, Design

Service design in growth hacking differs greatly from a traditional design process. A traditional agency model of creating new services is more or less like a waterfall: 1) you gather internal wishes and needs to form the concept of the new service 2) you design the service 3) you implement the designs.

Firstly, the traditional model is challenged by bringing the actual customer needs and wishes into the concepting phase. Secondly, design and implementation should go hand in hand, one informing the other. This model can be described as lean and/or agile service development. All of these improvements are good, compared to traditional waterfall, but fail to assess the central worries: Will this service bring more customers and revenue? This is what service design in growth hacking context addresses.service-design-growth-hacking

Building is a step-by-step process 

Service design in growth hacking is about creating an impact on revenue through a constant focus on feedback based on how customer goals are achieved in each phase of the customer journey. That might sound simple, but has many implications for the design process you should actually run. Instead of first designing everything and then implementing it, the growth hacking way is to design as little as possible and build as little as possible to test out the most risky assumptions. By rule of thumb, the first thing you build should feel a bit embarrassing.

Deploying a slightly embarrassing new service might sound like something you don’t want to do. It’s a way-of-working which has not yet been embraced by many companies. With web services, you usually start with a brief of what the website should have: front page with this and that, the service has these features and the log-in area should be integrated with this third-party authentication service. You gather all these wishes and assumptions across the organisation, and then the designer tries to make the best compromise between them and other aesthetic considerations.

Utilise customer feedback

The problem with all internal definitions of a customer-facing service is that they’re all based on a huge pile of assumptions that are based on the company’s internal views and people’s personal backgrounds. The assumptions are usually skewed by the very people who are the most educated about the service at hand. Service design in growth hacking does not mean you should skip all upfront research. It means, that you will form the assumptions based on customer feedback: whether it is current analytics data, heatmaps, clickmaps, customer service feedback or real end-customer interviews.

The upfront research that is part of service design in growth hacking should concentrate on asking why customers use the service and what they want to accomplish. By shipping the smallest possible part of the service, you can immediately start collecting actual customer feedback, validating your initial assumptions or proving them wrong. This knowledge then informs your next decisions: Either you iterate on the existing part of the service or start expanding it.

In the traditional design process customer feedback is almost non-existent and internal departments such as marketing has the last word. Quite often this means placing the seasonal marketing material on the most important positions in the new service. An example of that is front page banners that fill the whole first fold. Instead, a growth hacking-minded designer might raise the top conversions above the front page's first fold. 

New services and products are often branded with words that don’t clearly convey to the customer what a service does. Understanding that your customer doesn’t care about your new product's brand, but the service itself and the way you communicate how it solves their problems, might be a tough pill to swallow.

Design focuses on the whole funnel whilst highlighting the customer

Companies venture into digital businesses that are not necessarily their core business and have huge problems integrating those ventures into their existing business and marketing. New ventures are often started as a separate brand for the product or service, which is added on the company web page as a new section. When new elements and service streams are added, the website as a whole starts degrading and becoming harder for the end customer to understand.

A growth hacking designer goes for structure and clear presentation before visuals. Ideally, you first have upfront research of what customer needs are in each step of the buying process: awareness, consideration and decision making. Then come up with plan what needs to be communicated. Then the designer and copywriter together come up with the structure of presenting the information in a clear way.

The designer focuses on the whole funnel, not just front pages and portals to the service. Making this funnel easy and iterating it based on customer feedback is essential. This means skipping all irrelevant, unreasonable things that might be usually asked and demanded by different stakeholders inside a company. You should not ask for information that is not necessary for delivering your product or service. Making customer acquisition, login and purchase funnels as easy as possible means sometimes skipping dependencies of third-party authentication services, that might have been so elaborately designed from an IT-integrations perspective.

Think about how easy a purchase process in an App Store is: you simply use your thumb to confirm the purchase. Or think how easily successful SaaS services show their pricing and service levels for you to make the most informed purchase decision. This kind of approach to eliminate all possible friction, and drop-outs in each phase of the customer journey is key.


Learn more on growth hacking with our Growth Hacker's Handbook 2019, a guide offering you insight, learnings and tools to tap into your unleashed potential. The book tackles growth hacking through three cross-organisational levels: culture, strategy and implementation. Growth hacking is here to stay, and if you want your company to succeed, you need to be among the disruptors, not the disrupted.


 Download Growth Hacker's Handbook


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