What is Service Design?




There is no single agreed upon definition for service design, yet its importance is continuing to grow as more conversations surrounding scaling and operationalizing design are being had within organizations. In a nutshell, service design can be interpreted as organizing and streamlining resources within an organization to directly improve employee experience and internal processes which, in turn, will improve the overall customer experience and all customer-facing outputs.

There are many misconceptions regarding the integration of service design into an organization – including the notion that service design is only necessary for companies that provide a service. According to Nielson Norman Group, “there is no longer a clear distinction between goods and services. A continuum of goods—services exists with a plethora of combined products and services in the the middle. For example, a song (an mp3 file) is a product that can be accessed via a service like Spotify or Apple Music. To the user,  the difference between a product and service owning the sound file versus streaming the song – can be close to identical while behind the scenes they are quite different.”

Source: Nielsen Norman Group, Service Design 101

Source: Nielsen Norman Group, Service Design 101

Components of service design

There are several components that must be designed and appropriately integrated to create a comprehensive, seamless customer experience. When considering service design in particular, an exceptionally holistic approach should be taken. Any and all individuals who have a hand in creating a product or service, or are in some way affected by it, should be taken into consideration – this can be anyone from the customer to a third-party partner. Essentially, its all about optimizing the processes of the employee, the customer, and everyone else with a direct or indirect role in the end-to-end experience. Another component is the digital or physical environment that the service or product is being delivered. This can be a customer-facing channel, product or physical storefront, or the backstage service processes involved. These processes include any ongoing procedures performed by those frontstage or backstage actors when interacting with a product or service.

Whether these components exist in the frontstage – channels, products, or user interfaces – or the backstage – systems, infrastructures, or even policies – they all play a large part in creating the enhanced experience that all organizations must prioritize. Oftentimes, the root cause of any problem on the front end stems from some discrepancy on the back end.

Service blueprinting

Service blueprinting is to Service Design as customer journey mapping is to Experience Design. A service blueprint is a map which exposes “the surface-to-core of the business that makes up the backstage and behind the scenes of how you deliver and operate, and ties that to the customer’s experience.” Service blueprinting goes well beyond just the customer’s frontstage experience or touch points, and digs much deeper to fully visualize the internal processes that occur behind the scenes.  

Source: Medium, The difference between a journey map and a service blueprint

While a journey map can emphasize pain points within a customer’s journey when interacting with your business, a service blueprint can help organizations consider the customer’s experience, along with all backstage employees and other third-party actors’ processes or actions, that may not be visible to the customer. This can help to pinpoint areas of improvement behind the scenes to achieve operational goals and improve the end-to-end experience for the customer, the employee, and any third-party support that may be involved.

What are the benefits?

When these backstage issues exist, the customer-facing, front stage experience will continue to suffer. Service design can, first and foremost, help to streamline those backstage processes and improve both the employee experience and the customer experience.

Service blueprinting is an efficient way to – in as much or as little detail necessary – visualize and diagnose inadequacies, all while reducing siloes and creating more competitive, human-centered expectations for your organization.

Read More: Service Design for CX: Generating Value for Everyone Involved

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