Service design is a tool for aligning customer expectations with the company's offer. It's an action of collective creation of people-oriented services. In practice, it means designing corporate resources (people, assets and processes) to deliver value to employees, partners and customers.

The value provided must be tangible to customers. The book This is Service Design Thinking, now essential reading for anyone aiming to create valuable services, reinforces this perspective. The authors outline five principles of service design, emphasizing that the services created should benefit not just customers, but also employees and partners.

  • 1. User-centred – placing a human at the heart of the design process
  • 2. Co-creative – fostering extensive collaboration throughout the entire design process
  • 3. Sequencing – enabling examination of each aspect of customer service individually
  • 4. Evidencing – demonstrating that the service provided delivers its value
  • 5. Holistic – ensuring overall harmony and integration of experience across tangible and intangible services

I'll illustrate these principles with an example of an outdoor equipment retailer, although they are applicable to any industry and company.

1. User-centred

Consider the experience of all individuals involved in delivering the service. Understanding the customer is essential.

Initially, it's important to identify your customer base. Most businesses cater to multiple customer groups. However, when initiating service design, it's beneficial to temporarily narrow your focus. One effective tool for this purpose could be RFM analysis.

Internally, numerous stakeholders play a role in customer service. Understanding their perspectives, the challenges they encounter, and where they perceive opportunities for enhancement is vital.

For instance, consider the target audience of an outdoor store: adventurers, individuals actively participating in various outdoor pursuits. During customer research, our focus would be on comprehending their specific needs and issues throughout their customer journey.

2. Co-creative

Engage stakeholders with different expertise and roles in the design process.

The second principle of service design is close collaboration among employees from different teams, each bringing unique expertise. The most effective way is to create a multidisciplinary work team to enhance collective intelligence. Optimal outcomes are achieved when such teams embrace agile principles.

In the service design team of an outdoor store, participants may include individuals from marketing, production (procurement team), the e-shop or information system provider, and sales representatives from stores.

3. Sequencing

Facilitate a comprehensive understanding of the entire customer journey by breaking it down into manageable phases.

Another crucial principle involves mapping the customer journey, which entails understanding the customer's actions, decisions and interactions. It's essential to grasp the sequence of steps in the customer journey and identify opportunities to add value.

For instance, consider a customer journey where an adventurer realizes they need specific equipment for an upcoming trip. They browse and select a suitable product from the online store and then opt to collect it from a retail location. Their next step involves checking the store's opening hours.

4. Evidencing

Prove the value of the provided service and its components.

Evidencing can take various forms. One approach is visualizing services through physical artifacts such as customer journey maps or service blueprints. Another method involves researching customer needs with actual customers and testing prototypes in realistic conditions. My favorite form of evidence is when the value of the service is named/shown not only by the customers but also by the company itself.

A classic example of evidence is a neatly folded toilet paper in a hotel bathroom as a visible sign that the room was thoroughly cleaned after the previous guest.

Evidence in the context of the previously mentioned customer journey can be the number of product reservations and pickups on a given day, as well as a positive CSAT (customer satisfaction score). Thus, we can measure customer satisfaction/dissatisfaction and success/failure.

5. Holistic

Consider the entire ecosystem of the provided service with all interactions and channels.

The final principle ties all aspects of service design together. It's important to think not only about how individual interactions and channels work independently but especially how they function together. After all, the customer perceives the entire process as one continuous experience.

The key tool for mapping holistic services is the service blueprint or service map.

As discussed in the sequencing section, imagine a customer journey where an adventurer realizes they need specific equipment for an upcoming trip. In this scenario, the customer values the ability to reserve and quickly collect the item on the same day. Achieving such a seamless holistic service, however, demands well-refined internal processes and deliberate decisions (e.g., extending store opening hours).

Moreover, customer interactions with the outdoor retailer occur across at least two channels – the website and physical stores – with additional engagement from store employees. As part of the customer experience, interactions range from greeting customers upon entry to sending eco-friendly purchase receipts via email. Therefore, understanding the entire service ecosystem is essential.
When faced with challenges, adopting the customer's perspective and leveraging service design can be advantageous. For those interested in delving deeper into service design, feel free to reach out or explore excellent books by Marc Stickdorn, including the sequel This Is Service Design Doing.