Collaborating to improve train traveller services

As service design continues to develop as a discipline, people within the field are starting to work towards achieving higher-level, larger-scale integration with both public and private sector companies. This was the focus for a recent ‘public-private partnership’ in the Netherlands that saw STBY working with several service providers, government funded organisations and other service design agencies to develop a series of case studies showcasing what service design can achieve. This long-term project will take 3 years to complete, and is ultimately intended to help improve the visibility and applicability of service design in relation to the Dutch economy.

The project will involve several different case studies demonstrating the value of the approach – whilst also offering an opportunity to explore the processes it involves. In addition to this development and dissemination of in-depth knowledge about the field, the project also aims to strengthen the service design community in The Netherlands – the core group of organisations who originally founded the Service Design Network Nederland are all involved, with each agency working in the open-minded spirit of collaboration that is a key principle of the field.

Showcasing the Field by Studying Stations
The main focus for the case studies is Utrecht’s central train station. Currently undergoing a fundamental redevelopment, this represents an excellent opportunity for innovating the service experience of train passengers. In the true spirit of service design however, the case studies are not just looking at the use of the station, but at the complete customer journey: from preparing and anticipating a trip, to the moment people arrive at their destination.

In the past few months STBY has been working on the first case study together with Prorail, Edenspiekermann, Hogeschool Utrecht and TU Delft. We conducted in-depth ethnographic research on how the use of platforms at the station can be understood in the context of complete journeys; What kind of information and expectations do people have before arriving at the station? What kind of support is beneficial to them when on the platform? What works well for them, and what does not? What needs and preferences seem to be unfulfilled? What additional services could be offered to delight these intrepid travellers?

These questions were all addressed in an extensive ethnographic exploration incorporating observations, in-depth interviews, customer journey mapping, visualising insight clusters, and identifying opportunity areas in co-creation workshops – all classic techniques from the service design toolbox. The project is still ongoing, and will probably require a further series of internal workshops and presentations within the wider organisation of the main service provider, Prorail. We’ll try to update this article from time to time with the results that emerge from these, and will also detail the further case-studies that are still to come.

Spreading the Word
One of the final aims of the project is to generate materials that will be valuable for a wider group of stakeholders than just the participating organisations themselves. Various seminars and conferences will be organised therefore, and several articles published as well. This is one of the roles for the participating Technical University Delft and Hogeschool Utrecht who are actually studying how we, the service design agencies, approach the case studies and work with the stakeholders. So we, as observers, have researchers observing us… a bit surreal, but also fun and in a good collaborative spirit!

The parties involved in the project are: Prorail, Movares, Bureau H2O, STBY, EdenSpiekermann, DesignThinkers, 31Volts, Scope Design Strategy, Hogeschool Utrecht, Technische Universiteit Delft and Taskforce Innovation Regio Utrecht.

The project ‘Service Design – Are you Being Served?’ is co-funded through the Pieken in de Delta-program by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, the city of Utrecht and the province of Utrecht.

If you’d like to know more about STBY’s involvement, then just drop Geke a line at, or follow us on Twitter at @stby.

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