This article is a follow-up to our first article on service design, which seeks to define it and explain the reasons for its emergence today. In this second part, we will describe the most typical situations in which to use it, as well as its main tools.

When to commission Service Design?

When creating a new service or channel

The implementation of a new product or the establishment of a new contact point is one of the most appropriate moments to consider the intervention of a service designer. If a framework already exists, then the designer’s role is to ensure that the new element is integrated into the existing ecosystem and completes the overall experience of the user journey. In the case of the postal service for example, the installation of self-printing stamps must be perfectly integrated without slowing down or complicating the traditional stamp operating mode.

If the organization is in its early stages, then the service designer can help clarify the added value for the users and define the different contact points and key moments that will be relevant throughout their journey. Whether in the creation or improvement phase of a given service, the designer ensures consistency between the services provided to users to deliver a relevant and unified experience.

In case of undefined negative criticism

Within an existing organization, each contact point can be very well designed and focused on user needs. The call center is not overwhelmed, the website has relevant and appropriate content, the physical contact points greet satisfied customers or users… Individually, each contact point might work perfectly, but the value provided by a service is not clear or relevant enough if the user sees little point in using it. It may then lack correlation and coherence between all of its communication channels. For example, the visual design may differ from one channel to another, some functionalities might only be accessible on a specific channel or even some messages contradict each other from one contact point to another.

Negative criticism from users can then be voiced, without a specific point of contact being targeted. The natural tendency of every human being is to evaluate everything as a whole, without making fine distinctions. It will then become complex for the organization to identify where a problem comes from, since each channel has been the subject of particular care. This is where a service designer can help by not only focusing on a single point of contact, but also on analyzing the overall user experience by ensuring that the service provider is addressing a real need.

When the user is affected by the structure’s segmented organisation

Most organizations are structured into departments that operate through respective channels to promote and operate the products offered. On a daily basis in the creation or improvement of services, a project often stops existing at the place  that team’s responsibilities end. A new functionality added to the website will not necessarily be integrated with the other contact points since they are managed by other teams and other budgets. Sometimes agency advisors may have little knowledge of what the organization’s website offers.

« A great service and a well-designed customer experience are indivisible from the associated ecosystem of people, processes, products, partners and digital platforms that enable it. »

Enginegroup Story

The users are then left with the task of assembling different disunited experiences, instead of experiencing a continuous journey towards their objectives. It then becomes necessary to bring together as many people in the organization as possible around a thorough review of the interactions between the two. In this way, we can define which internal processes can be improved so that their operations flow more smoothly into the visible part of the iceberg for users. In service design, we distinguish between the visible part of the user, called the “front stage”, and what is invisible and linked to the structure of the organisation, which we call the “back stage”. A segmented structure has significant impact on the user experience. So, improving internal processes also has a direct impact on the user experience.

Dilbert Illustration de Scott Adams

What does a service designer do?

Making tangible something that isn’t

You may be wondering what a service designer does throughout their workday. Service Design is primarily focused on people, so user-centered design and co-design methods are at the heart of its research. However, where other designers conceive products, the role of the service designer is to represent what is not tangible and to model interactions. These representations often use infographics, cartography or iconography, for example, to create a synthetic visualization of complex data.

The main deliverables

  • Service blueprint: Representation defining the added value and main objectives of a service.
  • Experience map: High level user journey, before, during, between and after any interaction with the organization.
  • Ecosystem map: Mapping of the different contact points between the user and the organization.
  • Implementation plan: Plan for the deployment of a service, detailing the necessary steps to ensure its successful implementation.
  • Prioritization framework: A method of evaluating ideas based on criteria of desirability (meeting a user need), viability (meeting an organizational objective), feasibility (technically attainable) and sustainability (taking into account the entire life cycle).
Poster by CapitalOne showing the main tools and methods used in service design.

Create re-appropriable tools

It is important, however, that these documents do not remain in the hands of a designer. To overcome the segmented structure of organizations, these tools must be understood and shared by each team in charge of a particular area of activity. All the actors must be brought together to assess the various results, at all levels of the organization, from management to operations, as well as in all possible branches, from logistics to IT.

These tools must also be able to evolve over time and be re-appropriated by the teams. This is where the service design comes in, to create reusable tools and share best practices that will help develop a common culture focused around the user within the organization.


On a more personal note…

As a UX designer, my interest towards service design is certainly driven by the frustration of usually being confined to the pixel and screen, but also to the reduced perspective of a single touchpoint at a time. To have to start a user journey where one contact point ends and interrupt it where another begins… Missing the opportunity to develop ideas, even though they are recognized as useful for the organization, simply because such a contact point is managed by another team. Also, service design is a way to move away from the screen and take a step back to think about the overall vision by ensuring that the whole team moves in a common direction.

In the end, it may seem obvious to conceive the experience as a whole, but in practice, this is rarely the case. The truth is that organizations still rarely see that they need service design because moving forward touchpoint by touchpoint is easier than moving forward together on the basis of a common vision for the user experience. It may also seem more promising to continually create new products than to evaluate and improve existing ones.

However, the need for service design is fueled by ever-increasing expectations and the multiplication of communication channels. Users now expect organizations to offer more than individually well-designed products. Also, the most important thing is that the transition to this global vision of the user experience takes place, regardless of the discipline invoked.

I would like to finish without going into a long list of resources because the designers Megan Erin Miller and Erik Flowers have already done a remarkable job of gathering a great variety of templates and readings about Service Design.