Service design is the activity of planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between the service provider and its customers.
With this in mind, service design can be applied to both new services and existing ones. Possibilities and opportunities for best-case-scenario service provision are analyzed and stakeholder expectations assessed. According to the Institute of User Experience Design, considerations of personas, the customer journey and touchpoints help feed into the ideal service provision outcome – for customers and service providers alike.
This distinction between customers and service providers draws our attention to an important concept in service design: the differentiation between “front stage” and “backstage”. As the terms suggest, the key factor here is whether the customer sees a service component or not. However, it is important to bear in mind that backstage activities have a knock-on effect, meaning they can shape how a customer perceives a service front stage. For example, let’s say you’re in a restaurant, what happens in the kitchen will dictate what appears on your table.
With an appreciation for this interplay, service design hones in on the back end experience to pre-empt and address any organizational weaknesses, all the while keeping in mind the three main components of service design:
- People: Anyone who creates or uses the service or may be indirectly affected by it.
- Props: Physical or digital artifacts required to perform the service.
- Processes: Service-relevant workflows, procedures or rituals performed by employees or users.
Service design seeks to optimize internal processes by harmonizing business models and service provision approaches, fostering company-wide dialogue and collaboration, eliminating redundancies and encouraging sound service-relevant knowledge management.
Incorporating input from the users themselves and drawing upon cooperation between all the pertinent stakeholders, these efforts strive to fulfil the following service criteria among others:
- A unified experience
- Value creation for users and customers
- Maximum efficiency
But, of course, the service itself cannot be expected to meet these criteria without the correct enabling service design processes. A great deal of thought is therefore invested in ensuring the processes involved achieve the following:
- Reflect customer needs.
- Are as consistent as possible, keeping variation to a minimum.
- Include activities with added value for the customer.
- Are as simple as they can be.
- Structure the work, rather than letting the work define the structure.
- Are measurable.
- Become second-nature.
In sum, service design is synonymous with investing thought into and making conscious choices about the delivery of a service throughout the respective timeline, considering all relevant people, props and processes. A holistic, deliberate approach benefiting both customers and service providers.