Unpacking Service Design: Reimagining the Experience (Part One)

Our proprietary research shows that 67 percent of senior leaders attribute successful Customer Experience (CX) transformations to clarity of vision and business case.To drive effective customer-centered transformation, leaders must first transform how work gets done across every function in the organization, bolstered by a shared vision and an end-to-end framework for diagnosing, solving, and scaling enhancements to the experience. Accelerated Service Design is North Highland’s approach to reimagining all of the physical and digital touchpoints involving customers and employees needed to deliver an orchestrated experience. In this series, we will begin to unpack insights, challenges, and opportunities associated with the emerging field of service design.

In the book entitled This Is Service Design Thinking, authors Mark Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider state that, “If you would ask ten people what service design is, you would end up with eleven different answers – at least.”

To better understand what service design really is, let’s first tackle the fundamental question of, “What is a service?” In a purely economic sense, a service is a value exchange between a seller and buyer where no physical goods are transferred. For our purposes, we will loosen that definition a bit to allow for an exchange of goods. Now, let’s take the traditional example of your local coffee shop. Yes, you’re purchasing your morning caffeine fix on your way into work, but you’re also paying for the service behind that cup of caffeinated joy – the friendliness and knowledge of your favorite barista, the ambiance of the physical environment, the ease and convenience of ordering and paying, etc. The totality of those interactions and elements of the experience – the things you see, smell, taste, hear, and feel – as well as all the things you can’t – comprise the service. The outcome of that service is your customer experience. It is the sum of your perception, understanding, and remembrance of the service. And it’s what keeps bringing you back for your daily caffeine fix – or what drives you into the welcoming arms of the coffee shop across the street.

Now, back to the question at hand: What is service design? It is an approach to designing and orchestrating a service – both what you see and what you don’t – in a manner that achieves the desired customer experience. It leverages the core tenets of Design Thinking – empathy, problem framing, co-creation, prototyping and iteration – to design the desired customer journey and to connect the dots between the people, processes, technology and data required to bring each individual touchpoint to life. In short, service design connects human needs and values with business capabilities and ways of working to deliver more desirable and valuable experiences for everyone involved.

In today’s world, products and services are increasingly intertwined. What differentiates one offering and organization from the next is the customer experience. Service design is the how behind bringing those experiences to life to deliver and capture the fullest possible value.

In part two of our series, we will dig deeper into some of the tools that drive service design. Click here to read the third and final installment in the series.

1. This blog draws on the results of a North Highland-sponsored survey conducted in March 2018. To understand trends, strategic challenges, and opportunities surrounding ways of working in Customer Experience (CX), we surveyed 269 director-level and above employees at organizations with 2017 revenues > $1 billion and that are headquartered in the U.S. or U.K.