Our team at Somia CX just did our favourite kind of project! It was a service prototyping exploration on the field. Just like Save Cash & Bank It!, we went to the field for about 5 months (it was quite a loooong project, for us!), and we learned so much from it. We would like to share our learnings with you.

Before we blabber on about our story, we would like to tell you what is service prototyping?

Service prototyping is running and testing service concepts, so we can evaluate the usage and interaction of the service. By doing this, we should be able to:

  1. Learn whether the service works or not and why it is or isn’t working
  2. Check if the method of delivering the service meets the needs of the users
  3. We can then iterate both the service and method of implementation in order to improve it
  4. Avoid costly mistakes that might occur if we go straight to mass implementation and then finding out that it doesn’t work

The faster we did this cycle, the faster we can get feedback for improving the service.

Best way to know if something works or doesn’t work is by really testing it. We do it, learn from it, get new ideas, improve it, then test it again. By doing this cycle, on each iteration, we can gradually improve the service so it will get closer to what’s ideal for the customer.

So, what’s the project?

Unfortunately, this project is still confidential. But we want to tell you our story so much, we will tell you the story with an analogy.

Let’s say there’s a company from the future, who owns a science fiction app that can charge your phone from the thin air (so cool right!).

In order for you to get the context, we will tell you a bit more about the app.

1. It could help lots of people’s needs but… 2. The app is from the future! It has alient-type buttons here and there. It was hard for people nowadays to comprehend it. Therefore, it needs to be taught, or at least the person must have high motivation to learn how to use it themselves. 3. Since it feels so alienistic to most, many had gossiped about bad things about the app already. Some say it will make your phone explode if you use it for too long (which is not true) or the radiation from the electricity generation will give you cancer (which is also not true). Others think that the current way of charging is already good enough for them. To get those people to use the app, we need to break these challenges.

Through previous activities, we’ve proven that the technology works (feasible), and that there is a need for it (desirable — the target customers do want to charge their phone wherever and whenever they need it). In this project, our goal is to identify what’s the best way to educate this product/service, get them to activate it, and to continuously use it on a day to day basis. With this challenges, we worked closely with our clients to do 3 rounds of iteration in 3 different cities to find the way to get the app to the earthlings adopt, and here are the lesson learned:

Understanding – Get to know the product


When the users ask, we need to know how to answer as if we are the real customer service agents.

Don’t forget to always spend time to learn about the product. It is important to understand the product very well before jumping into the field, especially when it is a service prototyping in the real context. Beside desk research, you can do a quick intercept as initial research to help you understand the context and current state.

Doing a service safari (trying to use the product and service to understand the product as a user) could be a way as well. We did it in the beginning and it helped us a lot to map and get the overview about the pain points of the customer journey and how’s the interaction of the user, touchpoint and stakeholders.

Try the product, understand the product, become the product — mantra for a good prep

Planning – Making task list

With too many things at hand, it is easy to loose track on what to prepare. Keeping track with a to do list can save the day!

Unlike the usual field research, in service prototyping you will need to prepare many things besides the must haves of Discussion Guide and Stimulus. Starting from content materials to logistics needs, the list could go long to hairy details like “bring socket plugs”. In order to do those task lists, you will need the help of your client team because you need the client access to do it. We found that making a task list with the track of progress, deadline and the person in charge is helpful to keep good preparation and to not miss a thing!

Doing – Small change matters

Be creative and experimental. Some ideas may feel great at first but fail miserably, some may feel silly at first but turn out great. Small tweaks can make a big difference.

We always want to make a change and we tend to aim for a big one. However, we don’t always have privilege time, condition and budget to do so. During the service prototyping we learned that changing a small part of the design in one method could still give you a lot of learning and could lead to many variations. The small changes that we did in the project was done spontaneously in response to the dynamic condition in the field and it turned out helping us a lot in getting the direction and result of the research. This experience taught us not to be afraid of doing only small changes and to be flexible (we did a lot of improvisation during this project!). Still, don’t forget the research goal! Don’t drown only in serving the customer and remember that you’re doing service prototyping so keep in track of everything you found in the field.

The Matra – Prep, Iterate, Break. Repeat.

Prep: Know your context. The project. The place. The people. Site visit and ‘sowan’ before the prototyping day is important to help you understand the context, build connection and make strategic and technical prototype planning. Especially when you’re doing it in different places because each place can have their own charm and culture. By doing this, you can get the sneak peak of the local context that you can only get when you’re there. Moreover, you can anticipate better and do some adjustments needed based on the local knowledge that you got.

Iterate: Reflect on the learnings. Every end of day, we usually do a debrief session to make sure we download all the findings and learnings that we found out during the day. It is useful to plan for the next iteration and as recording tools before we forget it! Beside debrief sessions, making a live key learning and mistakes document to write down lessons learned from the project is also good not to lose the learning especially for a marathon project.

Break: Have a pause! Taking a break is as important as the research planning! Make sure you spare time to break in between your iteration. It allows you to reflect on the things you have done, prepare materials, tidy up your documentation and of course recharge your energy! You can also ask someone to be an outside viewer for a bird eye view of the project.

Last but not least, don’t forget to have fun!

Find your drumbeat. It’s a great way to have a break, recharge, and connect with your teammates.

Stay calm and enjoy the process! Don’t be so serious all the time. Find good food (Nasi Padang is our never go wrong lunch!), enjoy countless chats, make jokes or anything else you like. In our case, we love to have gelato before our debrief session 😀

Co-written with Nathaniel Orlandy Kurniawan