The Evolution, Methods, Processes, and Distinct Value of Service Design

Service Design
The emerging focus on user experience will be the key to companies’ success as we move from an industrial to a service-oriented society.  Service Design focuses on the methods and processes of a service from the point of view of the user.  The goal is to make sure that when a client or customer interacts with the service, from branding to customer service to any point of contact, there is room to make the service more useful, efficient, and effective.

How it Differs
As an industrialized society, we have produced too much stuff. This is evidenced by the serious problems we are facing: pollution, global warming, landfills, and water scarcity. Companies have seen design as a means to make products more beautiful and more stylish.  When you look at most types of design, such as graphic, packaging, and branding, the focus and goals are more product driven and based around physical appearance.  What about the intangible areas of design? This is where a customer interacts with a company not in a physical space.  Those are the points where service design can play a role. The companies that are looking at new innovative ways to create an experience through a service are going to excel in the new economy. As we move from a product focused society to service driven economy, companies need to retool and add service design to their entire model.

Service Design can start to address the entire journey of a customer instead of one isolated piece.  By using the methods of design thinking and service design, companies can gain key insights resulting in new solutions.  Insights come from research and investigation into the customer needs, wants, and behaviors.  This type of behavioral research is different from past forms of quantitative statistical research. What do Woolworth, Syms, Blockbuster, and Lehman Brothers all have in common?  The obvious is that they were all companies that failed in the last five years, but they also missed an opportunity to adapt to a changing economy.  A drastic redesign of their service, such as a service blueprint, could have saved them. Companies need to adapt to the new economy, by focusing on the user first, and creating a “moment of magic”.

Distinct Value
Even though more organizations would benefit from service design, it still finds itself in an uphill battle to become recognized as a strong anchor of an organizations’ design focus. Service designers are currently creating the language and networks that legitimize and empower its future use.

Traditional services such as retail, financial, telecom, and healthcare can benefit from designing a blueprint to look at all of the points of intersection with the customer.  Unlike a physical product, a service unfolds over a period of time through various steps and events. Professional consulting is a great example. The experience begins with learning the problem, defining the problem, creating a framework with which to dive into the problem, and producing a series of deliverables that will be met over a period of time.

Service design focuses on the whole system, including the customer as well as the staff within an organization, and from the front of the house to back. The company has to take into account all of the players.   In more traditional product driven design, the entire ecosystem or ecology is not as holistic. This is noted in Service Design as an Emerging Field: “Service designers take a deep dive into the ecologies of services, into the world of needs and experience of the users and providers.  They visualize, formulate, and choreograph solutions to problems that do not necessarily exist today; they observe and interpret requirements and behavioral patterns and they transform them into possible future services.”

Based on a study from the UK Design Council “41% of all producing companies regard design as an integral component of their company they found that companies that use design are 200% more successful on the stock market”.

As seen on the Service Design Network, service design has many benefits; service designers

  • help identify areas for improvement.
  • improve the way customers interact with your service
  • redesign spaces so they can be more efficient
  • create wayfinding and better communication tools such as branding

In conclusion, if a company begins to adapt service design into its framework, it can begin to differentiate themselves from its competitors in order to create value.  Companies that provide better services will be ranked more highly by their customers and will build better relationships.   People are expecting more and more from companies and this type of focus will help companies keep up with the demands of their customers.