Roman Schöneboom was one of our speakers at the Service Design Day on June 1st. Afterwards he kindly answered our ‚3 questions to…’

Roman Schöneboom was one of our speakers at the Service Design Day on June 1st. With his insights-led presentation he shared pains, gains and learnings from his work in large organizations such as the UK Ministry of Justice, third-largest retailer in the world Tesco PLC and Lloyds Banking Group, one of the four big UK banks. Afterwards he kindly answered our ‚3 questions to…’

Honestly Service Design in Germany is kind of a Cinderella subject. However, in the UK
the reverse is the situation. Could you provide one or two examples from your own experience, that demonstrates this is the case?

Service Design and Germany. Two words I would not associate with each other.

I had to leave Germany in 2012 after finishing my Bachelor in Media Design, because there was no opportunity to study Service Design or a related field as a Master. I believe that says a lot about the industry. I moved to the UK. After finishing my 2 years MA in Service Design I worked for a variety of organisations.

Putting the user first is something the UK Ministries are really good at. The way the British Government started to transform their public services 10 years ago is a great success story and evidences, that they were not afraid to embrace new mind-sets and new ways of working.

I received a letter through the mailbox from HMRC (Revenue and Customs). The letter stated clearly, that I paid too many taxes last year. It followed by giving two options: Either letting it be, receiving a cheque within 28 working days, which I then could hand in to my bank and receive the money -or- creating a new account with HMRC, applying for a faster repayment. As a user and service designer I chose options two.

The account creation took a minute, if some information has not been right, there was a clear outline of how to change it. Once the account was created, I found a pre-filled application for the repayment of my tax (because the government knows me!). I had to check if the information was right and digitally sign. 2 days later, I had the money in my bank account. That’s what I call Government service!

Another project I worked on might show how impactful Service Design can be for organizations. I worked with a team at the Ministry of Justice on a digital payment platform for advocates. We worked in an agile way, with continuous research loops and a solid governance and assessment process. After reaching the Beta phase, we did a review of what we’ve been able to achieve so far and looked at the potential impact once the service goes live:

  • We would be able to reduce the paper usage by 80%, having started with 11 tonnes a year (half a Boeing 747).
  • We’ve been able to reduce the journey steps and reject cycles as well as the time claims are getting paid, from 23 working days to 1.
  • With the platform we introduced a new feature, that faulty claims can be paused, further evidence can be requested, which results in no more soft- (goes back to another point in the process) or hard- (claim is rejected completely) rejects.
  • The platform supported caseworkers being happy, because they are now meeting their target comfortably. This means increasing efficiency and reducing anxiety.
  • Claim allocation – a process where the caseworker manager allocates daily incoming claims to other caseworkers based on their experience – was integrated into the platform as well and we’ve been able to drop from a 4 hours process to 15min (for 400 claims).
  • We also made sure that there won’t be any more compliance issues, that the system automatically updates fee calculators.

With our early prototype in Beta the Ministry was able to process and pay 2000 claims without any issues. Value delivered through Service Design approach.

Every successful design process starts with effective user research. What elements are critical in order to receive relevant results?

Truly transformational things can happen when companies allow a deep emotional understanding of people’s needs to play a key role in problem-solving.

However, how you gather and present that insight is critical to how it is used. “I was inspired by a 100-page report” – said no one ever. On the other hand, if the insight only lives in the heads of the researcher, then research becomes little more than a self-serving activity. You move research from something the researcher does to being an activity the whole team
owns by telling stories and being visual, doing research as a team sport and to collaborate for the best results.

And how to get there? Have a look at my ‘9 Lessons learned’.

‍(c) Roman Schöneboom

In your opinion, how can we convince companies of the value and necessity of Service Design? How can we inspire entrepreneurs to push this topic and drive it forward?

Companies have to be aware, that customer experience is the only differentiator to be competitive nowadays. CX means thinking of the person I am selling to, thinking of the person’s context, their real needs, creating empathy for their situation and delivering value. Companies have to invest into customer centricity, design thinking, and/or service design to draw out customer insights, help establish a customer centric approach, create products
and services that people like using, this will drive retention. The German design industry has to put on their “Siebenmeilenstiefel” on to catch up, otherwise foreign companies will claim that market potential.

If we do some research we find the following about the German market: Finalists of the German Design Award Newcomer section are working on mapping rooms (with a designed cart), looking into table etiquette and cooking, working on and with AI, trying to combine classic natural studies with technology and creating large glass structures. If we are having a look into the current PAGE issue (“Magazine for the creative sector”), there is only one
project which feels relevant to service design, besides topics such as editorial, visual identity, interaction design, illustration, journalism, handmade corporate typography, colors, etc. I would probably be able to find further examples.

The most important step for an organization is start to build an in-house capability, a team who could help build products, train colleagues, being responsible for defining principle and guidelines, providing digital foundation sets and platforms with methods and tools. Companies such as SAP and Deutsche Telekom in Germany have started investing into Design Thinking. The process takes time but will pay out. Companies who are investing into becoming
design-centric/customer-centric outperform companies who haven’t invested by 228% (editor’s note: Roman refers to the DMI Design Value Score). The customer experience drives everything.

Headerpic by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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Andrea vorm Walde


Andrea takes care of our PR and likes to show how innovative and versatile we are.

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