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What Are the Core Principles of Service Design?


Service design — this is what we will discuss in this article. Why is it so important, what stands at the basis of it, and the principles of service design are all questions we will address. 

The concept of service design has gathered momentum over recent years and has become somewhat of a hot topic. However, service design thinking has been with us for quite some time. The term itself has been coined by Lynn Shostack in the early eighties. 

Shostack was interested in finding out what happens behind the scenes of an organization. She wanted to have the whole user journey mapped out and see how companies coordinate activities that are not seen by customers. Her reasoning behind this approach relied on the belief that once you have the end-to-end perspective defined, it would be much easier to better design the services of a company. 

Let’s face it, we’ve all seen the footage and read the news surrounding the forceful removal of David Dao from the infamous United flight 3411. As a result of the incident, the airline has faced a major PR nightmare with stock prices crashing overnight. The world over was outraged by the incident and many consider it the best example of what happens when the service design process is not thought through. 

So, let’s start today’s lesson and really dig into the principles of service design for the betterment of your business.  

What Is Service Design? 

Essentially, service design is all about customer experience. All successful service design initiatives share the same core belief — take a service and modify it as much as it is needed to ensure it meets the customer’s needs for it. 

These principles of service design can be used to create a whole new service or simply tweak an existing one. Even more than this, you can design a service to not only meet the needs of your customers but of your team members as well. It is important to note that an effective service design process takes a more holistic approach. 

It looks at customer experience from the perspectives of all the key stakeholders involved in a service, from customers to employees and all the systems and processes in between.  

What is the end result of all this? It translates into an overall business success based on empathetic understanding of everyone involved. From staff, team members, users, management, and customers.

Service Design Thinking Applied on a University Campus

In the previous section, we referred to what we like to call an empathetic approach when it comes to applying the principles of service design

When we were approached by IUPUI (Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis) to help them with making their campus feel more friendly and welcoming to the wider community, the ethos of empathy was applied. 

What we have done was to take this opportunity and use it to engage with all stakeholders with a vested interest in making the campus as vibrant and welcoming as possible. 

As such, community members and campus leaders were invited to a participatory session in which everyone could have their say about what “welcoming” means to them and how can their vision be applied to an urban campus. 

The outcomes of the session have led to significant policy changes, improvements upon improvements, and even resulted in large-scale construction projects. We loved working on this task and we believe it is a powerful example of how a project can be shaped by the people that are directly impacted by it. Involving everyone in the service design process was the best option possible to avoid a stalemate in discussions. 

What Are the Benefits of Service Design?

Besides ensuring success for your business through guaranteeing customer satisfaction, adopting a service design thinking when it comes to structuring your operation can have other varied benefits. In short, these can include the following: 

  • valuable insights that can lead to innovation in terms of service delivery.

  • a deeper understanding of a service’s weak points through the eyes of a customer’s experience of using said service. 

  • a more focused approach when it comes to problem-solving. 

  • reality-based and not assumption-based decision making when it comes to actions that involve balancing business needs with customer needs.

  • developing a more collaborative and holistic approach toward solving business challenges. This is especially the case when more stakeholder groups are involved.

Companies now expect to compete more on the basis of customer experience than ever before. In such circumstances, having the perks of an end to end perspective surely cannot hurt.

Five Core Principles of Service Design You Need to Follow

So far, we’ve talked about definitions, benefits, and examples of service design. We hope that by now you have a solid foundation on the service design process and why it is beneficial to your business. 

However, the purpose of this article is to guide you to success with your service design implementation. For this, you need a set of guidelines. What better way to get these if not by discussing the core principles of the service design process. We decided to focus on five of them. Let’s have a look and see what these are. 

1. Each user’s perspective should be taken into account  

Understanding each user’s wants, expectations, preferences, and what    influences their decision-making, will allow your business to become truly customer-centric. 

Having an overview of such detail be it from the point of view of your customers, staff, or management, will give you an edge in terms of tailoring your offering and operation. Ultimately, taking great care in listening to all stakeholders involved, will allow you to enhance the end result and stand out from your competition.

2. User experience and service delivery are part of the same ecosystem

The point we are trying to make here is to not deliver your service without understanding your customer’s experience. You need tdesign your services around your consumers’ needs

How can you make sure you listen to their needs? It’s simple really. Ask them questions. How do they feel about using your service, what could you be doing better, and what would they like you to change, are all basic questions you should be asking your customers. 

It’s all about matching your service delivery to the user’s experience. Involving your customers in the service design process will tell you exactly what you need to change and implement. 

3. Iterate the process of service delivery  

The main aspect of engaging in service design in the first place is not to avoid making mistakes but to learn from them. 

How do you make sure you apply an active learning process to service design? By constantly testing out your ideas together with your customers. Taking such an approach will enable you to understand each pain point experienced by your customers. More so, it will help you to implement the required mechanisms to iterate the process of service delivery to the same standards each time. 

5. Consider a holistic approach when it comes to service design 

It is important to always consider each aspect of a service and the perspective in which it exists. 

Adopting a holistic view when it comes to your service design process will ensure that the whole user journey is mapped out and each consumer touchpoint is considered. 

Implementing this holistic approach can be done by using personas to differentiate between user experiences and journeys.  

5. All main stakeholders need to be actively involved

Put simply, organizations need to involve all parties with a vested interest in a service or process. Doing this will make sure that the end result is exactly what it is needed in the market. 

For example, if a company, be it a software or food delivery business, wants to develop an app to shape things up a bit and streamline service delivery, then they should involve the development team, PR department, and focus groups from their customer segments. Doing this will make each stakeholder feel valued and involved with creating a service they will ultimately end up using. 

Service Design Done the Collabo Creative Way  

So, we’ve gone through definitions, examples, benefits, core principles and so much more. What is there left to discuss in terms of service design? Well, it’s just the small matter of showing you how we can help with implementing the correct service design processes in your company. 

Our focus is on persona development, in-depth interviews, service blueprints, and company culture. As you can see, our mindset is close to the empathetic approach toward service design. We believe these techniques allow us to get in close contact with what makes a business tick. Doing it this way, we can quickly assess the pulse of a company and easily identify what needs to be changed. So, let’s see how these actually work. 

In-depth interviews

The easiest way to get to know someone is by taking the time to talk with them. If you get them to talk about themselves, then that is even better. Conducting in-depth interviews is a great way to get to the nitty-gritty of a person or issue. You’d be surprised at the kind of insights you can get by simply talking. 

There are many ways to structure this type of interview. It can be structured, semi-structured, or unstructured. However, what matters most is to organize your questions in a funnel manner from broad to more focused questions. This way the respondent can slowly be at ease and ready to answer when it comes down to the questions you really wanted to ask. 

However, you don’t need to concern yourself with doing these interviews because we can do so for you. We can do the heavy lifting and present you with what matters most — concrete results. 

Persona development 

It should come as no surprise that it is pretty difficult to really understand a person for who they really are. Looking at statistics and demographics can give us a glimpse into a market segment. However, this is not enough to make sure your services or indeed your business operation overall is geared up to 100% cater to your stakeholders’ needs. 

Creating personas can go a long way to solving this issue. They can provide you with a detailed view of your customers, employees, management, or leads. If done correctly, this approach will allow you to tailor your service to the exact needs of all these stakeholders. 

Developing these personas is something we have done successfully already and we can do it for your business as well. 

Company culture  

Have you ever wondered how your employees are feeling? Are they happy with their workplace and overall atmosphere? A positive response to these questions can be achieved by having the right company culture. After all, we like to say that great customer experiences start with a company’s culture. 

Multiple studies have demonstrated that a business that adopts a performance management mindset ends up producing incredible results. For instance, one particular study has shown that 50% less staff turnover, 10 to 30% higher customer satisfaction ratings, 40% higher employee commitment, and even double net profits can all be down to the right company culture. 

Helping you develop the right company culture to match your desired service design is something we can do for you. We love nothing more than connecting businesses to the people that run them. 

Service blueprints

You can think of these as being a part two to customer journey maps. Essentially, a service blueprint is a diagram that shows all the relationships between various service components and their respective processes. It is important to note that a service blueprint corresponds only to one specific customer journey and the user goals associated with it. 

We like using service blueprints in particular as it allows us to connect the “on-stage” with the “backstage” of a service or experience. It is a technique we believe to be key in any service design process. 

Service Design Made Easy

We hope that having read the article, you now have a better understanding of service design and how to approach it. In today’s business context, ensuring that customers are happy and that their expectations are met is more important than ever before.

Putting your company through the process of service design might just be the best thing you can do to ensure your operation is 100% geared towards what your customers expect.

Going through the service design process on your own can be daunting. However, this doesn’t have to be a painful experience. We are here to help you and provide the necessary support to make this journey easier. 

Contact us today and let’s see how we can apply our service design techniques for the betterment of your business.



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