Service Design: What It Is and Why Your Business Needs It

May 6, 2019

Although one could argue that the principles of service design have always been around in one form or another, it can still be an unheard-of industry to many. Businesses have become more aware that they must put the needs of the customer first, or must become more human-centred, to achieve success.

This is one explanation for why we see an explosion in both user experience (UX) designers and job postings. However, I would argue that service design takes things a few steps even further than that by considering all aspects of a business in a holistic manner: from its overarching customer journey to its internal workings. If you’re curious about how service design might be able to help your business, here’s a few reasons why you should strongly consider it.

1. To truly understand the people who use your products and services

Service design is a research-based practice but it’s quite dissimilar to traditional market research in that, as opposed to sweeping research with large segments of people, service design methodology calls for in-depth qualitative research with specifically selected individuals. Both approaches have their place and can provide useful insight, but the benefit of the latter kind of research is the focus on actual human behaviour. The focus shifts from “what people are saying they need or do” to “what people actually need and are doing”. It is a subtle but important distinction. Humans are incredibly complex, flawed, and not always proficient in reporting their issues accurately or suggesting appropriate solutions. The depth of service design allows practitioners to observe and investigate in a myriad of different ways to get to the heart of what changes to a service are going to make a true impact on people’s lives.

2. To make those products and services better and to consciously curate everything that surrounds them

In today’s day and age, customers are more sophisticated, and it will be expected that whatever you put in front of them has an experience that is up to the standards they’re used to (read: as good as they get from any other company – even if that company has 10x the resources that you do). If you want people to come back to using your product or service again and again, it needs to be both usable and desirable. That means that not only do usability, user experience, and visual design need to be of the highest standard, but what you’ve created will also be expected to actually make life better for the people using it. Moreover, even if your product is as fantastic as it can be, it’s also necessary to consider the overall journey surrounding it. Each interaction, or “touchpoint”, with a customer is a design opportunity that should be leveraged and each of these touchpoints should fit perfectly with one another.

3.    To get involved in creation

If you’re passionate about what your company is doing, then it follows that you’ll want to be as involved as you can be in seeing your ideas come to fruition. But unless your background inis design, coding, or some other discipline of creation, you may feel detached from bringing your product or service to life. Hiring a service designer is a completely different experience because, at its heart, service design is collaborative. You and your team members will be invited to be as involved as you can be. This also has the advantage of enabling you to reap the benefits of each stage of the process. You’ll understand why the research says what it does, how the recommendations presented to you came to be, and you’ll feel fully confident moving forward.  

4.    To improve how your company works from the inside out

Service design isn’t just about the elements of your business that are customer-facing. If your team and internal processes aren’t consciously designed and tended to, how are you meant to produce a service for customers that is? The more conscious you become of the team you’re building in house and how they work, the better the work you produce will be. Service design can take a look at how these internal systems work and help you to optimize them. Some consultancies (like ours!) take this one step further by offering services specifically catered to helping teams to work better together.  

5. It's just good business

Even if you’re not convinced by all of the reasons listed above, this kind of work and thinking has proven, bottom-line boosting business benefits. The next generation of business is absolutely focused on these kind of human-centred practices, so dive in!  

Has service design piqued your interest but you’re still not sure it’s the right fit? Dip your toes by organizing a workshop for your company with Three Times True (anywhere in the world!). You can expose yourself and your employees to new ideas and energy while trialing this kind of thinking in your workplace.

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