Why we think the correct use of the term Service Design is so important

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Oli Taylor


June 23, 2020

Service Design is becoming an automatic addendum to “digital product design”, but this is glossing over the business-critical methodologies that are fundamental to transform businesses and lead true customer-centric innovation.

But why do we think the correct use of the term Service Design is so important and worth communicating… it’s just another label for creating a great experience isn’t it? What digital agencies are and always have been here for, right?

Well yes, Service Design methodologies aren’t ‘new’ as such. There has always been a function for people and businesses to build a deep understanding of the way a service ‘works’ (or often when we’re approaching a service design project, exploring how a service could better meet the needs of its users) to inform the design process and evolution of a service.

But there is an argument to say that service design has now become an orthodoxy. It’s moving inside organisations, and government, at pace and yielding some ground-breaking results.

For us our belief in the saliency of a service design approach has been born out of our conviction that, to solve business problems, research cannot sit in a siloed team. Great service design comes from strategists, designers and technologists working on the ‘problem’ from the start.

Rather than have a team of user researchers asking some questions and then feeding that back to service designers, we involve both from the outset. So it’s much more based on co-creation throughout.

And the research goes deeper than just finding out what users need. It’s about making stakeholders part of the entire process as well, ensuring that we’re embedding the needs of the creator – the business and teams delivering the services – in the solutions.

Operational needs can often overshadow the needs of the end user, but it is essential that by taking a human-centred approach you can consider human needs, behaviours and contexts throughout, aligned to operational constraints; this is where the biggest opportunities for change, or transformation, lie.

Having ‘multi-actors’, the key stakeholders involved in a service, engaged at the beginning of a project, enables alignment across the organisation; everybody working to solve the same set of problems by looking holistically at the users’ needs, allowing us to design solutions from the ground up.

And. of course, service design doesn’t stop there. From the user research we move to prototyping, because creating a brilliant customer experience is not about digitising an existing service, it’s about how people INTERACT with the service. A human-centric design approach involves validating ideas and service propositions, to make good ideas even better and to ensure the organisation invests in the right product roadmap.

Simply put, by prototyping and testing we can deliver the right things in the right way.

So, the exciting thing about service design for us is that it’s inherently disruptive. By embracing user-centric strategies, you can improve not only the products and services within an organisation but also the full user experience and, in many cases, the organisation itself. Yes we can design great digital products, but our approach and service design capabilities means we often have a much greater impact on the transformation of a business than the product that they came to us for.

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