Service Innovation: Discovery

Starter Kit + Discovery Room
Project Overview
Our client, N Stuff Music, is successful trendy multi-service music shop in Pittsburgh. My task was to design and pitch a new service innovation for the business. Over the 7 week period, I conducted research, identified an opportunity, and conceptualized a service that would address the need of the customers and business.
Project Details
Role: Design Researcher and Service Designer
N Stuff Music
Duration: 7 weeks
Team: 3 students

Skills: conceptual modeling, communication design, design thinking, user research, opportunity identification, interviewing, storyboarding
About The Client
N Stuff Music is a local, family-owned Pittsburgh musical instrument store that’s been in business for over 50 years. They are dedicated to their customers and provide a variety of services including instrument rentals, music lessons at the Little Lesson House, and a cafe for their community.
Problem Statement
How can a new service concept be introduced to N Stuff Music’s current business model that addresses an unmet business and customer need?

Let's get smart first!

Research Process
Research was critical to our project to familiarize ourselves with the industry and N Stuff’s business model, understand stakeholder needs, and design and test for an unmet need. What was really interesting about this particular business was that they were already doing really well and innovating on a regular basis

...which made this research process all the more challenging and exciting!
Research Goals
1. Understand the various service offerings of N Stuff Music

2. Understand the relationship between employees, the business, and customers

3. Understand customer expectations and value exchange with business
Research Methods

Competitive Analysis

Secondary Research

Analyzing Customer Reviews

Experiential Research

Guerrilla Research

Expert Interviews

Intercept Interviews

Speed Dating

In the spirit of user-centered research and making things happen, I went to the point of service to get some answers.

Gotta bring it all together!

Consolidating Learnings
At this point, I had done a ton of background research including domain research, competitive analysis, online experiential research on N Stuff Music. I had also immersed myself in the space by attending two live music events and talking to N Stuff employees on the phone as well at the store.

My team and I engaged in an affinity diagramming activity to consolidate and derive meaning from our findings.
Affinity Diagram

Now for my favorite part...

Deriving Meaning
Customer-Centric Insights
1. Children are more likely to enjoy learning music when they choose their own instrument. In fact, research suggests that giving children increased ownership over their learning, helps sustaining engagement and retaining long-term interest.

2. Because N Stuff Music’s store space is not kid-friendly, children do not come inside with parents.

3. Customers and employees both value a close-knit community that allows for engagement and knowledge sharing.

Business-Centric Insights
1. Students leave due to two reasons: they lose interest or they don’t have the time to invest. It seems important to the co-founder to retain long term customers.

2. N Stuff Music wants to create practice rooms for their students, but are struggling to find the space to do it.

3. Little Lesson House(LLH) administrator recently partnered with the Autism Society in Pittsburgh “as a means to reach families in our area that have children with special needs and make them aware of our program”

4. Children waiting in the car when parents come to N Stuff, parents sit in car when children go to lessons. In each case, N Stuff Music misses out on engaging both customer segments together.

No, this is my favorite part...

Ideation Process
After developing our main insights, we began to ideate on possible service concepts that would address a need and bring value to the stakeholders involved. I did an abstraction laddering exercise where I listed the easily identified pain points and zero in on root problems, while ideating solutions for them. I chose this method to be expansive in my thinking and thorough with problem identification. I also suggested my team do an assumption reversal activity where we write down our assumptions and reverse them to imagine a new future state that could inspire new service concepts.

Let's break it down!

Deconstructing The Service
Something I've learned is that being quick and dirty with the research process can actually be really fruitful. Especially when time is of the essence (which is always) , I try to make the most of what I learn by creating sketches of conceptual models to understand things better. It was important for me to deconstruct the current service model, players, flow of services, and assets to understand opportunity areas better. Visual thinking is core to who we humans are, so learning how to visually communicate concepts has been a key learning area for me.

After ideating on possible service concepts, I created a quick sketch of my understanding of the current service and modeled possible solutions.
Opportunity Identification
We saw a unique opportunity to create a solution that would address giving children more ownership over their learning (rather than them sitting in the car while the parent made decisions about the child's learning). This would, in turn, help students stay engaged and capture longer retention rates for N Stuff Music, which is one their goals. We thought we could build on the company's desire to build a space for practicing and collaboration, but repurpose an already existing space to meet the different needs we've identified. We also decided to create a solution that would be especially attractive to the new customer segment that N Stuff wants to reach.

I was convinced there is an opportunity to engage both parents and children, instead of just one or the other (which seems to be the current landscape) by strengthening the connection between N Stuff Music and its extension Little Lesson House.
Autonomy in the music learning process and early exposure to musical instruments are key to ensuring sustained interest and engagement in children’s musical learning. Providing a kid-friendly space where children can explore, engage, and get inspired will help capture and retain their interest in music.


Sucessful design innovation is useful, usable, and valuable

Service Proposition
'Discovery' is a 2 part solution:

1. A repurposed physical “discovery room” space within the the business’s Little Lesson House
This would provide a collaborative, kid-friendly space where children can explore, learn, and engage with other students and different instruments. This could be used as a practice space or as a discovery room, where new students can try out different instruments. If adults are making purchases at N Stuff music, they can send their children to the discovery room so they don't wait in the car and this could pique their interest in learning music.

2. Rentable ‘starter kits’
Starter kits allow for mobile, at home exploration. Prospective students can rent out a starter kit which would come with different instruments and an easy to use guide for parents and children.

The goal of this solution is to:
1. Retain customers for longer
2. Re-envision the traditional music lessons experience to be more engaging

Testing With Users
Before we did some evaluative research with real customers, we pitched our service concept to the Co-founder of N Stuff Music to receive feedback that could help us refine/rework our concept. Our client validated the service idea and pointed out that only 4–5% of students stick with their instrument because they lack information prior to making the purchase (which means we were right on the dot!) One feedback we received was regarding the little physical space actually available at the store. So this prompted me to consider different optimal spaces for the discovery room and how we could play up flexible options.

Why Speed Dating?
I decided the best way to do concept testing was speed dating storyboards with users and employees. This is a great way to "show not tell" our service idea to users and rapidly test multiple concepts in a short amount of time. We made storyboards and tested them with customers (parents of students) and employees. Here are two examples below:

We explored different space opportunities at the Little Lesson House, such as the following: LLH waiting room, basement, N Stuff Cafe, backyard, repurposing N Stuff spaces. From this, I found that repurposing the LLH waiting room is the best spot for the discovery room.

Applying What I Learned
Density Model
As I was building out our service innovation concept, I started thinking about how having starter kits as the primary focus rather than the physical discovery room actually gave our service a higher density. Starter kits allow for more liquidity and can be unbundled from the physical store. At the same time, starter kits are re-bundling instruments together instead of learning about each instrument in silos. In this way, we dematerialized how music lessons are traditionally offered.
DART Model
The Dart Model details the core components to co-creating value. The biggest component of this model that my service concept embodies is access. We heard from our stakeholders that flexibility was important to them. We wanted to provide greater access to customers by liquifying the process and allowing them to take home starter kits. I think having a discovery room for prospective students to try out instruments before committing to lessons encourages an open dialog between the customer, current customers, and employees. It also fosters a standard of transparency and trust.

Developing a Service Proposition
When we were developing our service proposition I was thinking about the pillars of a successful service. Do people understand what the service does? To answer this, my team and I discussed ways to market our new service and how to make our solution easily discoverable. Do people see value in it in their life? We definitely did enough research to know there is justified value and customers will be able to perceive that through branding, marketing and ease of use. Lastly, do people understand how to use it? We have conceptualized that our starter kits will come with instructions and video tutorials to make sure it is easy to use for parents and children.

Impact of Physical Surroundings
In today's day and age where everything is digital, my team and I designed a service that is very tangible and physical in nature. For our discovery room I knew the physical space and spatial design would be very important to its success. Human-building interaction and environment-user relationships are at the heart of our solution. I knew it was important to impact the user's perception of the service scape as that influences how people categorize the service. This is why we designed the space to be very kid-friendly and welcoming.