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Methodology and Examples

Intro to Service Design

– By Brittany Hobbs

What is Service Design?

As digital platforms have become more complex, organizations must apply a service design mindset to make sure all touchpoints work in unison.  Service design is the mapping, orchestration, and optimization of connected services so that they appear like a unified experience to users. 

While product design is typically focused on task success and simplifying interactions, service design looks at interactions holistically. Service design projects are often focused on strategic KPIs, like increasing satisfaction, reducing call volume, increasing throughput.

Clients hire service design consultants when they need to examine complex ecosystems and find improvements. Service designers support clients by mapping disparate services and creating new strategies or initiatives.

Example of what service design solves: Airlines and online travel agencies (OTAs)

  • Pre-pandemic, the focus was on delivering products that met the core business need of searching for and booking tickets. Other self-managed capabilities, like online reservation changes and credit systems were not revenue centers, and therefore not developed.

  • The pandemic led to a huge increase in call volume to deal with cancellations and changes. This led to a massive increase in expenses and the extraordinary hold times negatively impacted customer satisfaction.

  • To manage expenses and retain customers, Airlines and OTAs had to quickly prioritize designing and developing online services that facilitated more efficient customer service interactions.

  • A service designer leads the evaluation, research, and design of new services to meet this business challenge. They would develop self-service tools and workflows that align to the customer experience vision. 

  • Service design differs from UX design because the latter generally sits under one team and doesn’t have influence over disparate, connected services and tools.

Why organizations should prioritize service design into budgets

In the airline example above it is very likely that the needed services were backlogged on a roadmap for a long time. Customer service isn’t a sexy area of focus and doesn’t get you promoted the way that solving acquisition or revenue problems could.

With the rise of the customer experience (CX) function in large orgs, there’s a growing mandate to consider how customers move through touchpoints and to develop services that are easier and better at demonstrating a brand’s mission and values. 

Think of Uber and Airbnb; their business model is essentially a marketplace that seamlessly makes hundreds of connected services look like a single UI. That’s the power of service design: it can be your competitive advantage and business model all on its own in the right circumstances.

Examples of service design projects

The following are example service design projects from our experience here at PH1 Research. We are a Vancouver-based research & strategy consulting firm founded in 2012. Our mission is to solve the biggest problems impacting your digital experience.

  1. Map the connected services of a leading B2B retail distributor to determine the requirements for new services and where to prioritize initiatives to improve existing ones.

  2. Audit existing customer services resources and the likelihood that customers will use them rather than contacting support. Then prototyping and testing new solutions with the intent of delivering tools and services that will reduce call volume.

  3. Investigate what type of online support tobacco users need on their journey to quit smoking. Then map out a unified set of personalized support nudges and communication to guide them.

Service design methodology

The service design methodology incorporates elements of design thinking, behavioural analysis, innovation sprints, and UX research:   

  • Investigate the problem space

  • Map the current service ecosystem

  • Map behaviours and expectations

  • Evaluate possible interventions

  • Map the ideal service ecosystem

Service designers act as hybrid researchers and strategists, operating at a strategic level to contextualize and research challenges before conceptualizing and roadmapping solutions.

Successful projects depend on gaining a holistic perspective of three spaces: 1) The interconnected services and touchpoints; 2) Systemic factors, like organizational culture and team-specific needs; and 3) The range of users and their diverse mental models and context.

If you’d like to discuss a service design project, contact Brittany Hobbs.

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