Service Design: Creating the Optimal Holistic Experience

by The Creative Alliance

diverse group of people using multiple devices

Happy customers, clients, and employees have always been essential to a company’s success. However, businesses today are more focused than ever on creating designs that deliver outstanding user experiences.

For example, most businesses are familiar with user experience (UX) design. It’s the process of developing products that deliver meaningful and positive experiences for users. And, of course, in this context, “product” refers to anything a user interacts with—a device interface, website, etc.

Customer experience (CX) design is also an important concept to companies. It addresses customer experiences across all touchpoints as an engagement evolves, such as from initial interest to making a purchase and all the stages in between.

Service design is a discipline with a more overarching perspective. It involves both UX and CX design and considers “users” more broadly.

Supporting Customer Journeys Through Service Design

Service design requires stakeholders to step back and look at experiences in their entirety. Wikipedia does a good job of summing up the process in its definition:

Service design is the activity of planning and arranging people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality, and the interaction between the service provider and its users. Service design may function as a way to inform changes to an existing service or create a new service entirely.

Consider the example of ensuring a customer contacting a company about a problem they encountered has a positive experience. UX might look at the website form and process for submitting a support ticket if that’s the most commonly used method. CX design would involve all the ways customers engage with the company about support issues, such as a mobile device form, call center, etc.

Service design takes into account all of the above but also looks at the scenario from perspectives other than the customer’s. How are customer service reps alerted to new support tickets? What information do they see? How can they leverage that information most effectively in other systems? How do they communicate with the customer? With other internal groups?

In addition, a service design approach assesses both macro- and micro-level factors. In the example above, enabling a support team to perform manipulation or measurement tasks efficiently on whole groups of requests at one time might be a macro-level goal, whereas making it easier for team members to navigate within a support ticket more effectively would be a micro-level success factor.

4 Elements of Service Design

Service design looks at four main areas to improve a company’s offerings for all external and internal stakeholders:

1. People. This includes anyone involved in providing a service. Our example touched on a customer and the support department, but those are just examples. Often, several other people or groups might be involved—a product development team, account executives, upper management, etc.

2. Location. Where does the interaction take place? In person? On the company website? On a social media platform?

3. Processes. What actions are taken and by whom in the course of an interaction? It’s common for an exchange to spawn several separate but related conversations. For example, a customer service rep addressing a customer issue might contact a product manager to talk about a particular feature, an account manager to alert them that the customer is unhappy, and the shipping department to inform them that a product arrived improperly packaged and damaged.

4. Third parties. These are entities outside of a company. For example, this could be a contracted shipping company, an outsourced provider of product repair services, etc.

Service Design Principles

Service design embodies five essential principles, including that it’s:

1. User-centric. The emphasis is on how interactions can be improved for the people engaged in them.

2. Collaborative. All stakeholders have a say in how the design is developed. Designers never assume to know what’s important to the customer, internal departments, or third parties.

3. Segmented. Designers create streamlined, fluid processes by breaking complex services into smaller segments that they can fully optimize.

4. Visual. Service design strives to make processes tangible so that stakeholders can better understand them, envision hurdles and desired outcomes, and provide feedback that enhances a design.

5. Comprehensive. No aspect of a service is too small or infrequent for consideration since failing to address even seemingly trivial elements can lead to suboptimal experiences.

Benefits of Service Design

Service design requires a commitment of time and resources. Consequently, organizations rightfully expect there to be a good return on the investment. A well-conceived service design delivers on that expectation in multiple ways.

For example, it can help identify misalignment between business goals and existing service models. It also creates a strong foundation for difficult conversations. If an organization’s process needs an overhaul, service design can explain why it does and how it should be changed.

In many cases, service design is the best way to identify redundancies that can be eliminated to make large, complex processes more manageable and efficient. And because this approach to design looks at the big picture, companies benefit from the efficiency of addressing multiple issues simultaneously rather than a “piecemeal” approach to service improvements.

Of course, perhaps the most important benefits of service design are that it improves stakeholder satisfaction and supports strong relationships. And solid relationships help companies in many ways, from increased sales to improved customer and employee retention.

Talk With Us About Service Design

For many organizations, service design is a new way of thinking about their offerings. In fact, it can be challenging to identify where and how your organization could gain an operational and competitive edge.

That’s where our expertise comes in. We can talk with you about your problematic services (or your services in general) and help you think more broadly about them as a starting point for taking action to correct them.

Whether you choose to take action immediately or down the road, knowing where service design can help your organization is a great place to start. Contact The Creative Alliance today!