Service Design Thinking

19 April 2015

Service design thinking as an interdisciplinary approach includes and connects various fields of activity. While Service design is an interdisciplinary approach that combines different methods and tools from various disciplines. It is a new way of thinking as opposed to a new stand-alone academic discipline. An evolving approach, this is particularly apparent in the fact that, as yet, there is no common definition or clearly articulated language of service design.

A single definition of service design might constrain this evolving approach, whereas a shared language is undoubtedly important for the further growth and development of service design thinking.

It is User Centered

To deliver services, a certain degree of customer participation is necessary. Think of any service offered by a design consultancy or public transport operator. None of them would be able to operate without the involvement of the customer. Services are not tangible or standardized goods that can be stored away in an inventory. Instead, services are created through interaction between a service provider and a customer. The inherent intention of a service is to meet the customer’s needs and, as a result, be used frequently and recommended heartily. This is often not the case.

It is co-creative

Putting the customer at the center of a service design process involves facing the reality that potentially there is more than just one customer group, and each group possesses different needs and expectations. Furthermore, providing services also demands consideration of the various stakeholders, such as front-line staff, back-office employees and managers, as well as non-human interfaces such as vending machines or websites. Thus, a single service proposition can involve a number of actors and different customer groups as well as different employees and interfaces. During a service design process we need to involve customers as well as all other stakeholders involved in exploring and defining the service proposition.

It is Sequencing

Services are dynamic processes that take place over a certain period of time. This service timeline is crucial to consider when designing services, since the rhythm of a service influences the mood of customers. We might get bored if something progresses too slow (e.g. waiting at the airport check-in) or we might get stressed out if it goes too fast (e.g. rushing through the airport security check).

It is Evidencing

Services often take place unnoticed in the background, like the housekeeping service in a hotel. In fact, services like these are intentionally designed to be inconspicuous. However, if paying a bill is the first moment customers become aware of such backstage service processes, their inconspicuousness might create a disparity in customer expectation and potentially result in their disaffection with the service.

It is Holistic

Although services are intangible, they take place in a physical environment, using physical artefacts and do in most instances generate some form of physical outcome. Subconsciously, customers perceive this environment with all their senses. We see, hear, smell, touch and taste the physical manifestation of services.