Hospitality Industry
4 min read

What is service design? Service design defined by hospitality leaders

EHL Insights
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Over the past few decades, service-related businesses have seen incredible growth. They now comprise about 80 percent of the economy in developed countries. Yet, despite this level of saturation, many continue to struggle to differentiate themselves. They do not do present a successful enough business model to help their particular business stand out from the rest of their niche. This hinders their ability to grow and experience their full potential.

For companies that want to grow, service design becomes critical. It guides how their organizations will grow and mature, and thus how they will appeal to customers in the future. Understanding the value of service design and how it can be used to nurture the development of an organization is a cornerstone characteristic of the businesses that thrive moving forward.

Here is what you need to know about service design as seen by leaders within the hospitality industry.

What is service design?

Service design articulates the plans for organizing the people, infrastructure, and materials used within an organization to improve its abilities to provide their services and satisfy their customers. It is a holistic process that looks not only at the people involved, but also the products they use, environments they will work in, and the processes they will go through as they seek ways to exceed the expectations of their customers.

A quality service design will follow these guidelines.

  1. It will first look at who it impacts. This means understanding the customers who will receive the changes in services and touchpoints as well as the people providing these services and interactions. It will bring into focus the needs of consumers throughout their experience with your company.

  2. It will consider the touchpoints that customers experience throughout the engagement with the company itself. For example, a customer staying at a hotel will interact with the brand when researching hotel options, booking their reservation, checking into the hotel, their stay, and then checking out. Articulating these different steps can help those in the service industry take a holistic look at the entire customer experience. Consider again the needs of the customers from step 2 and how they will be reflected at each of these touchpoints.

  3. A new service design will look at how your organization wants to interact with customers at each of these important touchpoints. You will need to consider the experience you want the customer to have, thinking not only of the front-end, direct interactions the customer has with the brand, but also the back-end. In other words, you will also need to consider what happens behind the scenes and how this impacts the customer experience. You should articulate how your service design answers the needs of customers throughout the different touchpoints with the organization and how that reflects the overarching experience you want to create.

  4. The service design should also look at how these changes will impact the business design of the organization. The business design and the service design need to come together to create a profitable model that will build the consumer base and create an outstanding experience for all.

  5. As your service design begins to materialize, you will then test your plans among customers, slowly rolling out to see how well the ideals of the new design and customer interactions align with the actual experience of customers. You want to track how it impacts their overall impression of the brand.

Throughout this process, the service design will be able to address situational weaknesses. The company will be better able to recognize how shortcomings in their processes, such as those behind-the-scenes activities that many businesses discount when it comes to planning customer experiences, actually directly impact the customer impressions and expectations.

This holistic look will give the leaders of the business a birds-eye look at how their company runs. By identifying weaknesses and adapting their processes to better achieve customer experience goals, they will position their brand to grow and thrive.

What makes service design critical for service industry businesses?

Social media, and engaging with a client base that is continually connected to the wider community instantly through the internet, has had a profound impact on the service industry. Now, bad experiences of customers can spread lightning-fast across the various social platforms, greatly impacting the reputation of the company and the likelihood of new customers selecting the particular business for their service needs. This can greatly impact the success of businesses within the service industry.

For example, within the restaurant industry, many know that even if their food is tremendous, customers who feel that the service was unsatisfactory may be lost, and may take other potential customers with them.

Conversely, when customers have an outstanding experience, they also have the potential to influence the wider reputation of the company and thus entice more people to patronize your hospitality business.

Brands that invest in their service design and find ways to maximize what they have to offer their customers can help avoid these potential pitfalls through careful analysis of what the customer experiences every step of the way.

What comprises a solid service design?

A quality service design will articulate what the customer should experience with the company to begin building the processes that the business will follow. Conversely, any businesses that do not use this service design model allow the predefined processes of their organization to limit and dictate the services offered to customers. This hinders customer enjoyment and the ability of the company to properly model their business on the service they offer customers.

This design will revolve around understanding the needs of the customers. It will deliver value and a quality experience for all of those involved, particularly the customers. The emphasis will be on efficiency, creating service goals and processes that will make customers happy, and helping the organization stand out as a customer-oriented company within the industry.

At the same time, the input of the stakeholders will be taken into account as the business works to create effective and business-viable solutions. Each service design will consider the feasibility and viability of the plans to ensure that not only will the model work effectively to build the brand, but it will also be something that the brand can reasonably implement and continue to use for their organization.

At its core, the service design will integrate all of the components that help to offer a positive experience for all of the customers and clients who patronize the organization. It will create a positive experience from one end of the customer’s interaction with the organization to the other. The customer will finish engaging with the business and leave with a positive impression of the brand, which in turn will help to spread a well-regarded reputation for the organization. As your company builds its following, it will stand out from the rest of the competition.

When it comes to building a strong brand, businesses in the hospitality industry need to consider carefully the value of service design. Knowing what customers want to see and understanding how to help your organization stand out from the competition in a positive way can help businesses build strong relationships with customers and grow their organization.

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