At ICED'21, more than 20 experts have been gathering in a workshop to discuss the answer to the following question: Do Smart PSS make the Voice of the Customer louder and clearer? 


What are Smart PSS? Well, briefly stated these are PSS enabled by smart technologies. In a way, these are solutions embedding digital objects (such as sensors, software, connect and analytical tools) that enable the providers to design and deliver innovative services to their customers.

For  example, Toyota and General Motors have embedded smart technologies in many of their high-end vehicles, essentially transforming them into means for designing and offering services such as roadside assistance during accidents, stolen vehicle identification, remote diagnostics for reducing sudden breakdowns and more   

Voice-of-the-Customer, on the other end, can be seen as the raw data related to expectations, wishes, pains and gains of the customers, as collected from the field. Being raw, these data must be interpreted and translated into more manageable constructs (for instance, engineering requirements) to inform the design activity.


And the answer is… YES, but more design support is needed to capitalise on this opportunity. Here are 7 major areas -in a random order - where more ‘support’ is needed to facilitate the creation of value adding smart solutions 


Here the VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS form the session.


Early prototyping of non-functional requirements

Low fidelity prototypes are very useful in an early design stage to initiate a dialogue with customers and stakeholders, not only as a means of verification, which is to check the compliance of a design, but also to know more about what the customer has not yet been able to express, which is its tacit expectations, needs, wishes and more. Much of the work today with early stage prototyping is aiming at knowing more about the so-called functional requirements (which is, what the system must be able to perform). More support is needed to be able to convey non-functional requirements as well (which is, the nonbehavioral aspects of the solution, its properties and constraints), which for the PSS extend along the entire lifecycle to cover, for instance Reliability, Usability, Security and more.


More opportunity for crazy concept generation

Do designers even have the freedom to ‘design’ Smart PSS? This is slightly provocative, yet the industrial cases discussed during the workshop point to a situation where designers are mainly asked to ‘deliver’ hardware and services according to the wishes expressed by the management and by other decision makers. Which is, there is little room for proposing radically innovative solutions to address the VoC during concept generation activities. Designing a PSS is often not a designer decision, rather a business people one. 


Support for profit modelling

A major hinder related to the transition from one-sale profit models to servitized business and PSS is, in fact, ‘profit’. While predicting the revenues from selling a hardware is relatively straightforward, the quantification of the cash-flows associated to a PSS is much less of a trivial game. Better design support is needed to predict revenue, cost and ultimately profit for the PSS option, making designers more aware  of the risk/benefit trade-off associated to their decision making.


Support for foresighting

Smart PSS do not live in a vacuum but are rather dependent from a number of other systems and infrastructures. Support is needed in form of better foresighting methods pinpointing how the infrastructure will evolve and adapt in the future, and how this will impact the ability of satisfying the customer needs and to deliver value through the PSS.


Taming subjectivity

Designing integrated product-service combinations is a task which, by default, is full of ambiguities and uncertainties. How can we help designers in eliminating the inner subjectivity that dominates several PSS process steps? There are often discrepancies between the perceived usage and actual usage of a solution, and design support is needed to better capture the actual intention behind the formulated needs – which is not always clear. On the other end, companies tend to interpret the VoC and the data their gather from the perspective of their own business model, and more support is needed to mitigate the bias resulting from this standpoint.


Support to deal with the integration between human-subjective data with performance data

The added value of integrated solutions, such as smart PSS lies often in the ability to improve the overall customer experience. This does not only encompasses facts and performances, but also feelings and emotions, hence plenty of human subjective data. Design support is needed to help engineers in integrating these diametral perspectives in the act of design, being able to deal, manage and integrate sensor logs with human subjective inputs. 


Support to deal with of zero-party data

Nowadays, the use of 3rd party data is discussed as an important enabler to know more about the context in which the PSS will operate, so to be able to assess its value. Yet, recent developments in data policies are making third party data more difficult to collect. Many experts point to the dawn of a new data paradigm, which is to the emergence of zero-party data, which are optional information that the consumer chooses to willingly provide to a company, to hopefully improve their user experience. Providing support to the PSS designers on how to plan for such a copernican shift in data management is another key highlight from the workshop. 



(1) G. Howser and B. McMillin, “Modeling and reasoning about the security of drive-by  -wire automobile systems,” Int. Journal of Critical Infrastruct. Protection, vol. 5, no. 3–4, pp. 127–134, 2012. [

(2) Y. Yoo, “Computing in everyday life: A call for research on experiential computing,” MIS Quarterly, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 213-231, 2010.

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