You’d be forgiven for rolling your eyes at the latest buzzword: Service Design. I mean, how many more design roles do we really need? Isn’t it enough to speak about User Experience design, Interaction design, and Customer Experience design? Well, no, it isn’t. See — all these flavours of design are related, but they vary in their breadth and depth and can be used alone or in combination to accomplish business goals.
Let’s use an example: a clothing business wants to open an online shop offering delivery to customers. Here’s how the design roles can be better understood:
Understanding, designing and testing the way that users interact with the finer details of a digital product. This is generally limited to the way elements on the screen move, interactive feedback of inputs and the action definitions for gestures.
IXD will take care of how customers browse through clothes, how selecting a size, colour, or print might work. What the visual feedback there would be for adding something to your cart. They may look into a 360 degree model of an item on a mannequin and how to rotate and zoom in.
User Experience design:
Here the design focus is on one digital touch-point, but in its entirety: an app, website or ATM even. UX design is focused on how users move through a channel or product, and what the “feeling” of it is. What context and mindset are users in when they use a product? Can they find what they’re looking for? Does the flow make sense? Can we use clever tools and tech to make things simpler and more intuitive?
UXD will look into design patterns that are predictable for online shopping, how users create an account so that it isn’t a barrier, how complementary items might be related to improve up-sell opportunities and optimising the checkout process. They will map out the user journeys within the site/app.
Customer Experience design:
The scope is broadened to include the users touch-points across various channels leading up to the primary product as well as afterwards. For example, how a person becomes aware of their needs, the market offering, how they make the decision to use a specific product, using it as well as after sales/service. Generally, this kind of design is focused on customer journeys before, during and after interactive with a product.
CXD will look at how a potential customer becomes aware of the website, what data we can use to target the adverts, how payments could trigger confirmation emails, how to get customers back if they’ve abandoned their carts, how delivery can be handled as well as planning for complaints, returns, and reviews. CX maps the before, during and post-fulfillment of an experience.
Broad as well as deep, this kind of design takes the user journeys from CX and digs into how business and technology enables end to end services which may include many touch-points across channels such as marketing collateral, software, hardware, call centre, delivery, repeat tasks/services as well as after-sales.
But the real magic about service design is that it looks at the service holistically: we’re not just designing for our customers (or potential customers), but also the staff that delivers a service, technology that powers it, the vendors we rely on and the business rules that enable it. Because you cannot provide exceptional service without looking at how it comes to life.
We typically start a SD project by understanding the way a customer currently experiences our service (if relevant): this means talking to people, asking them to walk us through their most recent experiences with our offerings. We want to take note of where they struggled to understand something, or where we promised something but didn’t deliver.
But we do the same research with staff — ask them to walk us through the fulfillment of a service and point out what makes their lives easier or more frustrating.
Often staff members have amazing insights into how a business’ systems or processes affect customers — so listen to them! The more we know about our clients, staff and any other people involved, the better we can design for them.
After mapping both client and staff journeys with relevant “pains” (where things are going wrong), “gains” (where things are going well) and “opportunities” (ways we can innovate or improve), we start investigating what a better Customer Experience looks like.
Good ideas are collected around each pain point, alongside things that competitors are doing well and narrowed down into feasible chunks and mapped into “To-Be” journeys (mostly for customers only, but it really helps to do this for staff members too). As an aside, this is normally where the scope of CX ends and SD really begins.
With our To-Be journeys in hand, we need to test the journey. This can be quite complex when a service runs across multiple channels and has time dependencies, but mocking it with customers will quickly show us where we’ve placed too much or too little focus.
We then break down each step into a list of requirements, services, processes and tech solutions required to make the journey possible. This is a key step in SD and is delivered as a Service Blueprint.
A Service Blueprint breaks an experience down into two primary levels: Front-stage and Back-stage. There is also a section for Insights where necessary.
The front stage is what the customer sees and interacts with. Imagine a play or a pantomime, where the actors and the visible set pieces and props are in the front stage, while the backstage is behind the curtain (lighting, sound, prop hands that move the set around).