What is “Service Design”?

You know those brands.

Those that are the envy of their category. Those that have grown to an iconic or near cult-like status. Businesses that have created a rabid and loyal customer base. Brands that always seem to be able to launch the most successful offering, that deliver a seamless experience and that always leave their customers recommending them to friends or colleagues.

What’s most compelling is that these brands have multiple competitors offering the same options for customers and at the same price.

What sets them apart is Service Design.

Service Design is a multi-disciplinary practice and methodology that allows you to plan and provide valuable service experiences for your customers while ensuring you have the ability to effectively deliver those services in a sustainable way.

It makes certain that what your customers experience through your services sets you apart and that you have the systems, processes and capabilities to provide those services to realize positive business results.

In defining Service Design, Forrester Research states, “Like customer experience (CX), service design focuses on the design and implementation of interactions that happen across the entire customer journey. Service design also designs the behind-the-scenes activities that enable those experiences to be delivered as planned.” [1]

It’s what has helped build those iconic brands, including Nike, Starbucks, Disney and more. These are all companies that use Service Design.

It can be utilized for either an internal or an external user of services.

It looks at all interactions your customers experience across channels over the life of the service delivery – which is referred to as “front stage”. It also considers the internal elements impacted by the delivery of those experiences that the customer doesn’t see – referred to as “back stage”.

Front Stage = User experiences

Line of sight —————————————————————-

Back stage = Internal elements of service delivery

Service design is user-centred, meaning a critical component of the practice is discovery. Discovery of the needs of your customers, their pain points and opportunities to provide them value and the best experience possible. This includes tools such as stakeholder maps, personas, service safaris, customer journey mapping and more.

It’s also collaborative, both with the user of your services and across internal teams. This ensures more effective ideation and that ability to not only determine the right solutions to improve the experience but also to eliminate those ideas that won’t have the right impact or that can’t simply be delivered. Service Design is about designing with people and not just for them.

It relies heavily on evidencing, or the practice of visualizing ideas in terms of physical artifacts or prototypes that allow for testing with users and the ability to further define detailed requirements. This process alone can result in significant savings prior to unnecessary development.

Finally, it maps out current and future state experiences to identify areas of focus, allowing organizations a user-centred process to prioritize action and initiatives for further planning and execution, resulting in a clear strategic roadmap. Common tools include Service Blueprints or a Business Model Canvas.

Customer expectations are growing faster than most companies can meet. What’s important is that your business focus on what are the right experiences you can offer your customers and have a clear understanding what it will take to deliver them effectively.

This is where Service Design can help.

[1] Forrester Research, How Does Service Design Relate to CX?