The Benefits of Ethnography in Service Design

Ethnographic research allows us to observe and better understand the behavior of customers/users and recognize their unmet and tacit needs.

Ethnography enables us to examine which needs a customer has that are not being met and then design products/services that reflect those needs. By taking a holistic view of how customers really behave is likely to ensure a good amount of findings. It is usually in these findings that we come upon the immense possibilities.  In order to gain real benefits of investing in the ethnographic research, it entails collaboration with real people over a certain period of time. However, it’s essential that the ethnographic research is well planned with the aim of delivering valuable results.
For my project in service design in the public sector, the theme interviews were used as a form of ethnographic research so as to gain people’s opinion and to gain insight regarding their experience or expectation. Interviews were carried out with two development managers in order to gain an expert viewpoint to the topic of customer involvement and value co-creation in the public sector. The interviewees were provided with the interview themes beforehand on their own request. Comprehensive notes were taken during the interview and interviews were transcribed to the letter for the data analysis purposes.
An interview method, arranged around the following three themes, was used in the interviews:

1) What role do the services you provide have in the customers’ own processes?

2) How do you anticipate the unarticulated needs of the customers and offer solutions proactively

3) How do you perceive the customer-centric approach to evolve in the new service development in the future?

 

All themes had customer involvement perspective. In sight of this study, the interviewees provided a great deal of information with regard to the current status of value co-creation and customer involvement in the designing services in the public sector. The advantage of a theme interview is that the collected data builds genuinely from up from the interviewees own experience.
It is a good method, in a sense that it is flexible and is not based on accurately predetermined questions. The theme interview is a flexible research method, because it is possible to jump to another topic, when it arises, and questions can be adapted to the situation. Interview questions are formulated as open as possible so that the views and thoughts of the interviewee could be mapped with depth and without prejudice.

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