At its simplest, service design is stepping into the customer’s shoes and going through the service from their perspective; why would the customer use the service, what does it require from them, what works and what doesn’t. In the age of digitalization, markets are full of all kinds of services and service providers, which means that well-designed and well-functioning services are a brilliant way to stand out and to bolster a company’s business and message.
Services can be consumed either in direct contact with the service provider, independently, or as a kind of a hybrid that includes independent phases as well as interaction with the service provider. Moreover, the service can be consumed in various different channels, such as in brick and mortar stores, over the phone, digitally in web or mobile, or as a combination of these. Digital services and service innovations especially play an important role when people transact online, regardless of time and place. Today, multiple channel possibilities are considered self-evident for a good service.
Be it a digital or a physical service, it’s important to understand the whole service path with all its phases and service channels. The service process should be as smooth as possible for the customer, with all the phases seamlessly following each other. The continuity of the service flow between different channels should be taken into consideration when designing the service. For example, when a customer switches from phone service to face-to-face service, the representative should have an access to all the customer’s background information. Service design is basically designing and refining all the service phases that are relevant to the customer.
Everything starts with the user
The first concept a service designer has to determine and comprehend is the value proposition: what kind of benefits and values should the service offer to the user? Why would the customer use the service? It is essential to understand the user’s core needs and how to meet them. Customers and their needs are a good starting point, but one shouldn’t let them restrict ideation and innovation too much. Even the customers themselves don’t always know what they want. Henry Ford’s famous statement (regardless of if he actually said so) is something to think about: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”.
Once the value proposition is clear it’s possible to start thinking about different ways to satisfy the customers’ needs. These options, service concepts, define the basic idea of how the service will be implemented. Service concepts can be presented in multiple different ways, at the simplest, by drawing the different service phases on paper. In addition, designing and testing simplified prototypes gives an idea about the service concept’s true potential.
As service designers, we are also consumers, and in some cases we are the service users. Nevertheless, our thoughts are often too deep inside the service and its features to view it objectively. We often become fixated on a certain idea and letting it go can be difficult. Therefore, it’s important to test the service with people who haven’t had any previous contact with it. Testing the service concept frequently, in short cycles and with new people keeps you in check with reality.
A well-designed service is easy to understand and intuitive to use. Brick-sized manuals are a thing of the past. If you need one to use the service, it’s best to find another service provider. A good service guides the user through the whole process effortlessly. The service should be pleasant, interesting and attractive in order for the customer to be satisfied and willing to return to the service.
Great service design is the core of success
Carefully designing and planning the service makes it easy to use. When the service is user-friendly, the number of support requests and error messages decreases. Therefore, investing in service design at the very beginning reduces the maintenance costs in the long run. In addition, well-functioning and appealing services build the company’s brand in a positive way. Investing in service design and digital service innovations is essential for various different reasons.
Our consumption habits change constantly. We use an ever growing number of different kind of services and our quality standards are high. What is more, digital services can rapidly reach an international scale which enables a huge growth potential for businesses. Well-designed and innovative services are the key to success.