What is Service Design?

Combination of interdisciplinary expertise.


What is Service Design?

There's a lot of ambiguity around what exactly Service Design is. We hear about it in relation to healthcare and mobile technology providers, it is both tangible and intangible, and can involve environments and behaviors, alike. However, for businesses whose product is service-based, Service Design comes into its own. So, I wanted to simplify its definition, here, in this context. So that everyone can understand it better.

Service Design is a combination of interdisciplinary expertise, used to develop better processes.

Technology, logic, cognitive science and aesthetics are called into play to improve customer experiences, build long-lasting customer relationships and ultimately increase a business’s commercial success.


Why is Service Design important?

From banking to communication, consultancy to entertainment, we all use services, every day. While this makes services an intrinsic part of our daily lives, it also means the services market is the majority player in our world economy. In fact, according to the World Bank, almost 69% of the world’s GDP is generated by services. 

Netflix, Google, Spotify & iPhone are all highly aware of the importance of good Service Design. We can see this through their business models. Did you ever wonder why Netflix charges customers on a monthly basis instead of per movie or why Spotify also only offers monthly subscriptions? And why did Apple switch from iTunes to Apple Music? The reason is simple. All of these providers wanted to move away from selling products and into selling services. Through well-designed services, providers hope to build and maintain a relationship with you, the customer. This relationship means that they can predict their revenue better, re-invest in improving customer experiences, up-sell and introduce new products and services more effectively to their existing customer base. 

The benefits of brand loyalty, which companies such as Nike developed and cherished in the eighties and nineties, are reaped with more certainty through successful customer relationships within a service agreement. 

This relationship creates a fluid, back and forth association between the user, the client and the stakeholders. Broadly speaking, what is good for one should be good for all. It is within this Venn diagram of interconnectedness that innovation has the most impact. Service Design is the methodology used to develop this innovation. 

How does the concept of Service Design translate into practice?

Service Design is the holistic practice of designing the customer experience from start to finish, covering every possible deviation, to produce the most satisfaction – to ensure the customer is delighted and remains in the relationship. 

In its fine details, Service Design is concerned with planning and organizing people, creating and improving infrastructures, processes and communication, and designing the material components of a service.

To do this, the customer journey is mapped out, usually physically, and dissected by a team of professionals with different discipline specialties. Every experience, interaction and possible pain point is examined individually, as are the hundreds of connections between interactions, and the journey is treated holistically as a whole. 


Five essential principals guide Service Design:

1.    User-Centered: Users are at the center of all elements of design. Every innovation has to offer the best, most user-friendly version of a process. 

2.    Co-Creative: Service Design relies on the input of users and service deliverers to provide innovation.

3.    Sequencing: Processes in the service are visualized as a complete sequence throughout the customer’s journey.

4.    Evidencing: New innovations are tested to ensure they add value and improve the existing journey.

5.    Holistic Approach: Generalized theories of marketing, communication or processes are never applied in piecemeal. The journey is viewed as a whole. 

But one rule rules them all. In Service Design - innovation is key. 


Innovation at the heart of Service Design

Innovation charms and delights us. More than simply the novelty factor, innovation means we have introduced something, not just new but highly effective. In the psychology of creativity, innovation is defined as that which is novel and problem-solving. And only by thoroughly dissecting a problem, can we hope to find a real solution. 

Service Design ensures that each element of the customer journey is designed in a holistic relationship with every other element. 

It assesses and scrutinizes how customers will react to each experience, and aims to make both the individual event and the complete experience as pleasing and friction free as possible. By doing so, it secures relationship, builds new ones and opens new revenue streams.