General Principles to Create an Effective Service Design

June 04, 2020 •

6 min reading

Service design thinking: 9 principles

Written by

Service design thinking is a critical component to ensuring a company's success in the service industry. It is what drives a user's experience and builds a company's brand image.

Because of the intangible nature of a service, it can be more difficult to create a design for it than it is to create the design of the product. Because of this, service design is often overlooked, which can result in poor customer experience and eventually affect the bottom line of a company.

What is service design thinking? 

Service design thinking brings together the organizing and planning of a business's resources to improve both the customer experience and the front-line staff experience.


When a company is plagued with poor service, it is often the result of flaws and failures that occur within the system. So to create a customer experience that can properly promote your company's brand image, you will need to think through a service design that involves both the employee's and customer's experience and how they work together to be favorable to both. While developing a service design can be difficult, including these 9 principles to your design thinking will maximize your chances of success.

1. Services Should Be Designed Based on Customer Needs

While your first instinct may be to think about the needs of the business, but for a design plan to be successful, you must first consider the needs of the user. An example of putting the user's needs first could start simply with a phone system. It may be tempting to use a more automated process with a robot operator that can help the customer navigate to who they need to talk to as an attempt to save on physical labor, but this system is flawed as it will often result in poor user experience. Even though the technology is accepted in today's business world, if it becomes difficult for a customer to get the information they are looking for quickly, they will likely become frustrated and associate the negative experience with your company.

2. Services Should Be Designed With Achievable Goals

Another item vital to the customer experience is making the goals easily obtainable. For example, if a customer signs up for an account and wishes to cancel their account or service, it should be easy to do. Giving them the runaround can create bad blood with customers and damage your image with the public. If a contract is involved with the signing up of an account, the terms should be easy for the customer to understand, and they should be able to easily end the contract when the terms outlined are satisfied.

3. Service Design Thinking Should Always Keep the User in Mind

One of the worst things from a customer service perspective is for them to feel that they are just an account number to the company or money in their pocket. You may have noticed how customer service representatives ask who they are talking to, tell their name, and typically ask a question related to the area where the person resides. This is not to make chit-chat while they pull up the account. This is to let the customer know that they know who they are, where they live and are interested in more than their business with the company. Another way in which a design plan can involve more personalization is through other customer service means, such as email. While generating stock email is definitely more cost-efficient for a company, if the reply does not address the issue the customer had emailed about or appears to be a simple stock reply, the customer will feel undervalued. It is ok to follow a basic template, but including information such as the customer's name and information specific to their account or issue will allow them to better feel that their issues are being properly looked into and addressed, and they are not simply being blown off.

4. Service Design Thinking Focuses on Creating Value for Users

Part of what separates great customer service from average service is knowing what the customer wants and providing it for them before they even ask. But all too often, companies will have policies in place that conflict with this in an attempt to create a healthier bottom line. What they fail to realize is that while they are worried about how a few dollars may impact the bottom line, they are creating a negative customer experience, which can be significantly more costly if they suffer from poor brand image. For example, a hotel may have a policy of not giving guests extra towels or personal care items that customers may have forgotten in an attempt to reduce costs. Yet, by providing these simple items to guests, it can improve their experience and create a better image for the hotel.

Professional Advice  Service Excellence  Are you looking for professional advice on implementing a service culture  throughout your company? Our experts are here to help!  Learn more

5. Service Designs Should Account for Special Events

While most service designs will be planned around standard events that can occur, it should also include contingencies for events that could occur, though they are less likely. When special events or circumstances are handled properly, it can show that a company is adaptable and knows how to meet the needs or their users no matter what situation may be raised.

6. Service Designs Should Reduce Wait Times

In a technologically advanced world, customers are often getting their information in moments at their fingertips. Because of this, waiting for answers makes them even more impatient. Your service design should come up with ways to mitigate wait times. If customers are on hold or waiting in line for 30 minutes, they are likely to become irritated or to give up altogether. Whether the design allows for your wait times to be more efficient, or you design a system, such as callbacks to eliminate the customer's need to stay on hold, parameters should be put in place to mitigate a customer's wait.

7. Service Designs Should Focus on the End Experience

Ideally, you will want your service design to provide customers with a great beginning and end experience of their service, but if this is not as easily attainable, then focusing on the end experience is critical. For example, being made to wait for a table at a restaurant, for a server to get your order, and for the food to come can ruin a customer's experience if it takes too long. If this can not be avoided due to unforeseen backups, then you should always make sure that the end of their restaurant experience will provide for excellent service. This can mean ensuring that the meal is exemplary or adding simple touches like a complimentary dessert for inordinately long waits. The idea behind this is that the customer is most likely to remember the most recent part of their experience, and if that is a happy one, then they will be left with a positive image of the company.

8. Service Design Should Deliver a Unified System

It is essential to understand that service design is a plan for the user experience as a whole, and it should be approached as such. Too many companies focus on the individual components that make up a service plan and can get hung up on them instead of seeing how they affect the big picture. Start with the overall goals and develop an efficient way to achieve those goals. Approaching it this way will make it easier to develop the individual components to create the strategy in a way that they will complement each other as well as the larger goal. If the components don't work together, they can undermine the whole design.

Professional Advice  Service Excellence  Are you looking for professional advice on implementing a service culture  throughout your company? Our experts are here to help!  Learn more

9. Service Designs Should Be Prototyped Before Being Implemented

As with any design, it is always best to make sure it works before you try to implement it. Even the best-laid plans will have defects, and the best way to identify these deficits is by testing out the plan to find the weak points. When determining if the plan will be effective, look at it with a discerning eye. You may be in love with some of the components and feel that they can truly work, but if the test does not show that they fit, it is best to remove or adjust them instead of trying to get the plan to work around them.

In short, service design is what supports the overall user experience, which is vital to the health of a company and its position among competitors. Poor customer experience cannot only result in a drop in repeat business, but also permanent damage to a company's image. To create an effective service design, you should be sure to incorporate the principles above and be sure to approach them through the eyes of a user. It is important to remember that users are the lifeblood of the service industry, and sacrificing user experience in lieu of the company's bottom line can spell disaster for any company.

Discover THE Service Excellence Guide:
from Service Design to Service Recovery


Looking for professional advice?

With an all-inclusive approach, we develop applicable, tailor-made solutions for organizations.