How crossed wires helped to create Service Design

3 years ago  •  By  •  0 Comments

You may know that Service Design is the activity of planning and organising people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between service provider and customers”; but do you know how one of the fields first insights and improvements came about?

This is Service Design thinking

In the spring of 1962 a factory owner named Alfred Levy filed for a patent in the U.S. Patent Office. In the application Levy outlined a solution to an ongoing problem: how to increase the satisfaction of people waiting to be connected on the telephone, and subsequently reduce drop-offs.

Levy’s solution proffered “an object of the present invention to provide a system of the character described which upon actuation of a hold instrumentality, e.g. a key or button, will connect the incoming call to a source of program material, e.g. music, thereby to pacify the originator of the call if the delay becomes unduly long, and also to while away the idle time of the caller who is awaiting connection to a certain party or extension.”

What Mr. Levy had just brought into the public domain was not just the idea of ‘on hold music’, but the concept of entertaining people while they waited for their core service to be delivered – arguably a key tenet of Service Design.

However, what is perhaps more interesting is how Mr. Levy came across such insight and discovery in the first place. As it was in fact a loose wire in his factory’s telecoms system that inspired his unique idea. Because by fraying and interacting with a nearby steel girder the system had started to pick up interference from a local radio station, and intermittently pump music into the ears of the listener as they waited to make their calls. Thus entertaining the listener and giving Levy the impetus to submit his now famous patent application.

And so it came to be that from such simple interaction came not just the birth of ‘on hold’ music and messaging, but a giant service lesson was learned, and step toward the field of Experience Design taken.

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