Business Management
6 min read

How to validate a Service Concept during Service Design: 5 step guide

Ana McFee
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You've conducted your research through interviews, questionnaires, or surveys. All the data is in order. You've studied and analyzed everything you have, identifying patterns, themes, and customer challenges your service can solve. The next thing is to determine how valid whatever you're doing is in helping solve the problem at hand and how it resonates with your target customers. Does the service fit into the market niche you want to venture into? How will it perform against competitors? How do your target customers feel about the service? These are the basics of a service concept validation process.

A service concept is a critical entity of service design as it clearly articulates the value and outcomes of whatever you're trying to convey. In the hospitality and service industry, it's essential to describe the customer's and other stakeholders' needs and how the content of the service you're offering guarantees their satisfaction. According to Johnston and Clark, a service concept is more emotional than a business model, more profound than a brand, surpasses a good idea, and more concrete than a mere vision. When validated and implemented correctly, it can bring employees and customers together, create business advantage, and improve the bottom line.  

Hearing the target audience vs. interpreting their intent

When testing the validity of a service in the market, we are susceptible to assumptions and bias. We go out and listen to the target users. One hears the words exactly as the users say them, but we end up interpreting these words differently. Most people are bound to make assumptions about what the users meant, leading to wrongful insights. That's why concept validation is important.

Once you have the concept in place, it's important to effectively validate it to get rid of any assumptions and biases you might have about what the customers need. Service concept validation is an essential step in achieving service excellence in your hospitality business.  

Concept validation also saves you unnecessary budgetary risks, boosts focus, and increases the chances of meeting your objective of curating a successful service to customers. The question then remains how you can best validate a service concept.

This article explores various ways, and best practices, to validate a service concept and ensure your customers get nothing but the best service. But, let's look at the various benefits of service concept validation.

Sharpen Your Leadership Skills  Upcoming Online Certificates:  Maximizing Individual & Collective Performance  Leading in a Multicultural Environment  Learn MoreWhy is service concept validation important? 

Concept validation has various benefits:

  • It allows you to develop a detailed understanding of your customers and how they feel about your service before launching it to the market.
  • Concept validation also gives you the chance to identify various directions and potential scenarios for undertaking the necessary improvements to make your service more appealing to users and more market-ready.
  • It's a way of resonating with consumers. You are able to determine what's working, what would work with the necessary changes, and what wouldn't work at all and needs to be done away with altogether. By doing so, you're able to optimize your concepts by focusing on areas that matter before launching your service into the market.
  • It saves you the budgetary risks of launching and re-launching a service while increasing your chances of successfully implementing a viable service to your target customers with minimal chances of failure since you've already tested and refined its market relevance and acceptance.

5 steps to validate a service concept during service design

1. Look at the service concept from different perspectives

A service concept may assume different value propositions depending on how you work and turn the underlying product, concept, or technology into a specific service solution to suit a particular audience. The first thing to do when validating a service concept is to explore each value proposition as if it was unique and independent of one another, envisioning how the overall development of the service could support each specific direction. That way, you can draw out several potential scenarios for the concept and organizations and create a basis for more advanced evaluation.

There are various ways you can successfully come up with different solutions for different scenarios in this situation. One of them is to have each potential value proposition on its own reference material like a board or poster, with each direction's potential benefits and barriers. Such an arrangement makes it possible to work on each proposition independently before merging all the solutions into one upon completion.

2. Identify a sample of participants

Research is the basis of formulating the solution for your customers' needs. It's through interviews, questionnaires, or surveys you get to know about the challenges the customers are going through and tailor your solution toward solving these issues. During concept validation, you're able to gain alignment with your target users and teammates. Use a recruiting screener to identify the right participants.

There are several factors such as market trends, competitors' positioning, and internal organizational factors to consider when making a decision on the value proposition, strategic direction for the service, and validating a concept. Besides these, it's also essential to test and validate the potential of each value proposition with regard to target users. By doing so, you can bring exciting findings about things such as the challenges the target audience is facing, what could be deterring them from adopting the service, how much they're willing to pay for the service, and many more. However, working with a large number, say 200 people, could prove difficult. A carefully selected sample of 10 to 20 participants is enough to validate your service concept.

The participants will be basically testing the service. You can decide to apply alpha or beta testing.   With alpha testing, you can use internal employees or team members to test the service. Alpha testing comes in handy in eliminating idiosyncrasies or issues in the service concept before involving outside target users in beta testing.  

3. Articulate all your options to the participants

The validation process cannot proceed if the participants aren't aware of whatever is happening. Once you have the right participants for the service concept validation, the next step is to show them whatever you're trying to achieve –your service as a solution to their issues. Describe a potential user scenario and present parts of the service that you feel could address the scenario. A concept walkthrough and storyboards are among the most popular tools you can use to give the participants an imaginary tour of the service concept.

Take your time explaining everything to the participants. The best practice is to first clarify the context of use before explaining the steps to put them in a condition of understanding and evaluating the proposed concept. If you have multiple scenarios or different applications of the same service in your bag of ideas, take the time to elaborate every direction. Please pay attention to the participants' reactions as they'll tell you what could work and what needs refining.

Explaining and clarifying your ideas to the audience is a particularly important step in coming up with services for the B2B market, where it's often more challenging to understand how the service can be integrated into a more extensive workflow and support specific activities more effectively.   

4. Gather and analyze your findings

The reactions and feedback you got from the previous process form the basis of your findings. Once you're done, it's time to report everything you learned to the rest of the team for further analysis and decision-making. It's a best practice to have daily debriefing sessions to help shape the emerging directions as you proceed. You can use a synthesis wall for this purpose. That way, you have a continuous process where the subsequent sessions are continuously built on top of the previous sessions' findings.

Through analysis, you'll understand better and learn more about the profiles of different profiles involved. From analyzing the findings, you can learn about the transversal challenges and changes in different contexts.

Don't be biased when presenting the results or findings to avoid skewing the service. Depending on the findings, some of the initial directions will come out as interesting –these you can discard or study further. Others will probably be confirmed and cleared for further development. If you encounter big barriers that may compromise the success of the service concept, don't hesitate to raise a flag and even pause the ongoing developmental process to recollect.

5. Come up with one or more significant user scenarios

Your research's outcomes may yield various relevant user scenarios. These scenarios provide a way of bringing together the value propositions and approaches identified and co-designed with the participants. At this point, you're at the tail end of your validation process. This is where procedures must be explicitly communicated as an implementable and viable solution, in line with potential customers' needs, organizational goals, and strategic perspectives.

Describe how the service will work across every step, from distribution to regular use and maintenance –this step turns the initial direction from being a mere potential to a tangible opportunity and process that accommodates everything gathered from the research.

Service concept validation's impact on the bottom line

Now that you are armed with the knowledge for validating your new service design concept, your concept is 55% more likely to succeed compared to concepts that don't go through the validation process, according to a 2019 product manager survey from Gartner. Businesses that have a healthy cycle of implementing new service design improvements enjoy more than a 25% uplift in revenue, according to a McKinsey research survey.

Validating your service design concept is a crucial step in implementing any new service or adapting a part of the service offering in order to create more value for the customer. However, if this all seems too overwhelming to tackle yourself, get professional help with your service design process. Get in touch with EHL Advisory Services today. We have 46 years of experience in service design and implementation. Learn how we can help innovate your processes and maximize your resources with tailor-made solutions.

 
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Business Development Senior Manager at EHL

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