What is service design and why does it matter?

@theservdesgroup
 

Abstract

In this article, The Service Design Group, the premier customer experience and service design consultancy in the US, presents the history and evolution of service design and demonstrates service design's impact on business results.

 
 

What is Service Design?

Service Design is the art, science and discipline of purposefully orchestrating people, process, content, technology and environments to successfully and consistently deliver and manage a service.

It's a good question, that's for sure...

Service Design is a practice with deep roots, including systems engineering and services marketing. Service design is also an emerging field of practice in the broader design community creating a much debated, fuzzy line between "experience design" and "service design."

The Service Design Group created this definition of service design:

"Service Design is the art, science and discipline of purposefully orchestrating people, process, content, technology and environments to successfully and consistently deliver and manage a service. Service Design should produce differentiated, relevant services, capable of incentivizing the stakeholder behaviors necessary to achieve an organization's desired results - whether they be financial, performance-based, or both."

We think that sounds pretty good. More importantly, our definition provides clear direction on how one should think about service design as well as what to expect from service design providers. In particular, The Service Design Group's view of service design specifies that:

  • 1. Services span people, process, content, technology and environments.
  • 2. Orchestration and management are critical.
  • 3. Behavioral change and outcomes matter.

But let's back up a bit...

In the time since Bitner introduced servicescapes, we've seen three important developments.

Service design traditionally draws heavily on servicescape concepts developed by Bitner in the 1980s. Servicescapes offer a framework for understanding the influence environments have on service delivery, in particular signs, symbols, ambience and artifacts. It's important to note this framework was developed when service delivery occurred exclusively in the physical world.

Fast forward, and in the time since Bitner introduced servicescapes, we've seen three important developments:

  • 1. Many of the world's developed economies shifted from a manufacturing base to a services base (as a % of GDP).
  • 2. Technologies such as e-commerce, real-time messaging, social and mobile computing evolved, providing a viable platform for conducting business online.
  • 3. The practices of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and User Interface (UI) design emerged and morphed into User Centered Design (UCD), User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX).

So what? Who cares?

We have more names for designers and design specialties than we know what to do with.

Well, for starters, we exist in a service-based economy. While that might suggest organizations continually improve and optimize services — as is required to be successful in product manufacturing — multiple studies reveal this is not the case. (As proof, one only need think about their personal experience with services – how many appear to be purposeful or exceptional?). Second, the "fabric" of the servicescape has fundamentally altered due to the influence of digital technologies. Lastly, we have more names for designers and design specialties than we know what to do with.

No wonder it's confusing!

Our point of view

Rather than focus on service design... most focus on experiences.

There's a gap in terms of what organizations should be doing and how most professionals think about and practice "service and experience" design.

Rather than focus on actual service design and management — inclusive of service levels, warranty, utility and outcomes — most organizations and practitioners focus almost exclusively on creating engaging, immersive and delightful experiences (i.e., the environmental focus of the servicescape model).

Worse, many organizations and practitioners narrowly constrain their efforts to the digital space.

Our stance

Real Service DesignTM = Service innovation AND management.

The Service Design Group believes the servicescape approach to service design should be reclassified as "physcial experience design." In our perspective, the core principles of servicescapes deal with brick-and-mortar environments, such as a retail, restaurant, hospital, or hotel servicescapes.

Likewise, The Service Design Group believes User Experience (UX) Design should be reclassified as "digital experience design." In our perspective, the bulk of the activity and focus in the UX space deals with pixel-and-byte environments, such as digital marketing, web application, or mobile application experiences.

We take this stance, not to discredit work that happens in physical and digital experience design, but to create a clean separation between these practices — which skew towards delight and engagement — and what we consider Real Service DesignTM, or more aptly put, service innovation and management.

Why does this matter?

Real Service DesignTM is capable of driving serious business results.

Because, The Service Design Group knows that Real Service DesignTM — which focuses on innovation (with respect to the underlying business model) and management (with respect to establishing warranty, utitlity, and measurable outcomes) — is capable of driving serious business results, well beyond "delighting users" and "increasing satisfaction."

Said differently, we believe these are completely different tool sets.

In one hand, you have your "digital and physical experience design wrench" that lets you adjust user engagement and delight in order to increase customer satisfaction.

In the other hand, you have a "service innovation and management chainsaw" that helps you shred through business model design and cut down obstacles related to changing behaviors, increasing profits, expanding share of wallet and driving desired outcomes."

Which tool do you want to go to work with? We choose Real Service DesignTM.

Real Service DesignTM

...Real Service DesignTM requires an ability to seamlessly integrate design thinking with business thinking...

The notion of Real Service DesignTM brings us back to the core concepts from The Service Design Group's service design definition:

  • 1. Services span people, process, content, technology and environments.
  • 2. Orchestration and management are critical.
  • 3. Behavioral change and outcomes matter.

Practicing Real Service DesignTM requires an ability to seamlessly integrate design thinking with business thinking, to combine change management, six sigma and process engineering with empathy mapping and personas, to blend together rapid prototyping with data-driven analysis, and to go beyond "just physical" or "just digital" to create holistic solutions which can be measured, continuously improved, and explicity mapped to business results.

Why this really matters!

...firms [can become] more resilient and capable of quick adaptation, rapid innovation and continual improvement.

The Service Design Group knows that when Real Service DesignTM is done, benefits abound. Research shows that organizations that excel in service innovation and management outperform competitors in terms of revenue growth, share of wallet and renewal rates by up to 30%. These firms are also more resilient and capable of quick adaptation, rapid innovation and continual improvement.

Those are the types of business results from service design that we co-create with our clients.

If you're considering an engagement, stop and consider what you want to achieve, think about what it will take to get the results you're looking for, and don't settle for anything less than the real deal.

Read next: Wake up! We are a service-based economy.
 

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The Service Design Group gets results. We know our solutions work, so we offer fixed prices, results-backed guarantees, and pay-for-performance contracts. If you need to transform your customer experience or service delivery, you should give us a serious look.

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