One of the things that has been most compelling to me in our service design course so far this quarter are examples of using service design tools to understand non-commercial social interactions. In that vain, as I read Mary Jo Bitner’s “Servicescapes: The Impact of Physical Surroundings on Customer and Employees,” I imagined how her framework for understanding servicescapes would map to perceptions of cityscapes. I am in the early phases of a design research project about perceived safety and awareness of personal safety in urban environments, so this particularly relevant.
I have recreated Bitner’s framework (above) and then modified it to push my understanding of this issue and to generate topics for inquiry in my research.
My first iteration on Bitner’s framework kept the overall structure, just switching the roles of customer and employee with person who feels threatened and person who is a potential threat. I then evaluated each section to see if it was applicable to perceived safety and made appropriate additions and modifications.
This points to specific areas to pay attention to in my research. For instance, how do physical attributes of a space, like choke points and sight lines, might influence perceived safety? I will probe to see if my research participants are aware of these details. Also, the project I’m working on involves wearable technology. Looking at potential physiological responses will feed design ideas at a later stage of the project about what data could be collected and presented.
This first iteration also pointed out to me a major dissimilarity between a servicescape with and customer and employee, and a person navigating an urban environment and evaluating his or her safety. To visualize this difference I have created a new model using the main components of Bitner’s model.
A service interaction is fairly unambiguous, the role of customer and employee are, at least at a high level, defined. In the case of a cityscape, a person who feels threatened may be responding to the environment in the absence of any other person. If there is another person, he is evaluated as a potential threat in the context of the environment. Moreover, the second person, or potential threat, may or may not be aware of the person who feels threatened, be aware that he is perceived as a threat, or actually intend harm. All of this creates a dynamic and multi-pronged “service” flow. I have also added two additional components to Bitner’s framework. Culture and awareness are lenses through which the response moderator evaluates all of the other stimuli, and will be a major focus of my research.