3 customer types and 5 stakeholder roles to include in Service Design.

By Graham Christison

Published: January 15, 2020

Last Update: July 23, 2023

Human centred design is a critical part of Service Design

The digital revolution is accelerating business transformation and focusing it squarely on the customer experience. The process of Service Design depends upon judicious application of human centred design techniques to ensure that the customer perspective drives the service features and performance. Success is predicated upon identification and inclusion of all the relevant types of customer and internal roles that are dependencies in the end to end delivery of the service. Service design is a journey and all relevant parties need to be taken on it.

  • Which are the customer types in scope for the service and should be included in the human centred design process
  • Which internal roles in the business need to be engaged in the design to ensure that the value you are trying to create can be appropriately supported by the actions of business staff?

Transformation Professionals and Business Service Owners alike should be interested in identifying these groups to ensure designs will achieve the desired outcomes. Understanding the deep seated drivers beneath the mindsets of these customers and stakeholders is how a business can better manage the complex interplay of people and tasks, and get the best out of its customers and staff. We have written previously about the make up of a mindset in our blog “5 ways to develop a growth mindset to achieve career success “.

With insights into the mindsets of the people in and surrounding the organization, and what roles they are meant to play, an enterprise will have the intel by which to act where needed and motivate the behaviors that will enable its activities and its service innovations to succeed. It can encourage people’s choices in how they think, act and behave in their roles and jobs … especially disruptive thinking that supports innovation where appropriate, that leads to exceptional performance levels.

Here are the different types of customers and stakeholders to consider in a Service Design exercise. They are separated into the following categories of external customers and internal customers or stakeholders. 

Three ‘External Customer’ types who interact with a business

#1. Buyers are the individuals, or businesses (both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations) who buy or pay for value propositions.

They make the decision to exchange payment for the value provided by a value proposition, that creates the buyer-seller transaction. In a business-to-business (B2B) transaction, there may be many individuals involved in the buying process, including the ultimate decision maker that approves the payment, while there are other influencers who are involved in the buying process, including users.

Buyers may, but do not necessarily have to be the consumers or users of the value proposition. When an individual is both the buyer and consumer, there are two experiential journeys: the customer or buyer journey and the user journey that interconnects to inform the individuals total or combined experience.

#2. Users are the individuals who consume and use the value proposition. A user may be the buyer, or they are just an influencer of the buying decision by another individual because they will experience the solution provided.

When the user is not the buyer, and does not know the payment value or price of the value proposition, the user experience through the user journey, becomes the means by which a business can create a relationship and any stickiness effect that will lead to repeat use and exchanges of value. User expectations also differ from customer expectations as the way that a user perceives what constitutes value, including any sense of entitlement will be different to that of a paying customer. Examples include: children who consume and use products and services paid for by their parents, citizens who consume public services paid for by the government or indirectly through paying taxes, and sales staff who use different tools or software applications to support their sales relationships with customers. The apps are purchased or licensed by the CTO or other technology stakeholder.

#3. Partners are other organizations that influence and support a business, in how it runs itself and transforms, to produce and deliver value propositions for different customers and stakeholders.

There are many ways for a business to interact with it’s partners that are either bound by a legal agreement or a government regulation or less formally, where there is no agreement. Partners can come in many forms, and are often named by their role, or the function that they perform in the chain of business activities that are required to produce and deliver the value proposition. Partners can be ‘suppliers’ of equipment, ‘vendors’ of complementary or supporting services, or ‘governors’ who provide clarity on rules of engagement including: manufacturers, distributors, agents, resellers, consultants, regulators, governing bodies, information and content providers. They should all form a part of a co-creation relationship.

Five Stakeholder or Business Role categories that support a business

#1. C-Suite, Senior Executives & Board of Directors These stakeholders are responsible for making decisions about the strategy of the entire business, its brand, and how and where it should grow from new or existing value propositions.

Board directors and senior management review the competitive landscape and the problems faced by the business, and define the scope with which the organization will undertake its business transformation activities over a period of time, in order to achieve the specific targeted valued-added outcomes. They set the targets and the mission of the business.

#2. Business Management Business managers are responsible for making decisions in relation to specific value propositions and how the business will operate to deliver value to customers, while increasing the revenue and profit from the value proposition, e.g. service owners and product managers.

They define and manage the Business Model to deliver on the customer and user journeys, while meeting targets set by senior executives as well as receiving support from other roles in change management, engineering & technology, and sales & operations.

#3. Change Management Change management stakeholders are responsible for process design, architecture, as well as managing and delivering business transformation, to support the business to change from its current state of operating to its target state Operating Model

They manage the governance process for the organization using a strategic transformation plan and roadmap to enable changes to be orchestrated and executed with a good level of business agility. This supports speed to market, while ensuring the changes and outcomes from transformation activities are aligned to strategy set by senior executives, and the Business Model as defined by Business Management.

#4. Engineering & Technology

#4. Engineering & Technology – Led by engineering and supported by technology, including various tools, this is where the value propositions (products & services) are physically designed, built, produced and delivered.

Engineering and technology also deliver technology or IT services to other parts of the organization, including management of physical infrastructure including the assets required to produce and deliver the value propositions.

#5. Sales, Operations & Servicing – Where the value is delivered to customers and to the organization in the form of output and outcomes.

These roles are the doers who put the strategies and innovations from the organization, supported by technology where required, into action via their interactions with customers and users. They are also responsible for the physical transactions that serve the balance sheet, where the ‘profit’ or ‘loss’ is made. They manage the customer relationship over the long-term to deliver the organization’s financial growth targets such as Customer Lifetime Value.

Find out more about customers, stakeholders, value propostions, co-creation in THE STRATEGY JOURNEY Framework and Methodology which provide an end to end approach to business transformation.

Graham Christison

About the author

Hugely experienced in the finance world, Graham Christison is a technology and operations specialist who uses business and IT architecture to enable strategic change within businesses. He also has extensive practical experience in influencing and shaping data, automation and innovation strategies and execution roadmaps within many large global organisations. With over 20 years’ experience in major corporates around the world – including several global banks as Managing Director – Graham understands the issues facing large businesses and how to increase efficiency, agility and accountability while minimising risk. Graham is co-author of THE STRATEGY JOURNEY book.

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