We usually think of service as an activity we take to help a customer, but as customer interactions have rapidly digitized, this concept has taken on a new meaning. Service design in the digital age looks at the entire customer journey, from awareness to advocacy, and identifies ways to improve that whole experience. Although the practice of service design is decades old, the way we define it has shifted as we have gone digital.  

According to a report from McKinsey, the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically accelerated the digitization timeline for many user-focused professionals. In fact, they call this acceleration a “quantum leap.” Businesses forced to adapt to a digital-first landscape have reported that they fared best when using technology with a focus on “speed in experimenting and innovating.” Respondents to McKinsey’s survey reported that they “are three times likelier now than before the crisis to say that at least 80 percent of their customer interactions are digital in nature.”

Service Design Vs. User Experience Design

Service design and user experience design both aim to improve and enhance the product experience. While UX designers focus on the touchpoints of the user experience, service design works behind the scenes to make that experience a reality. The service designer asks, “What can we do to make things easier for the end user, and how do we go about doing that?” The process of putting those objectives into action is service design.

Who Needs Service Design?

Service design is important for any business that wants to improve its user experience and generate a positive customer experience (CX) that makes its product or service easier to use. Service design can improve customer relations, but it can also improve the employee experience. Consider an organization that requires multiple levels of approval (and paperwork) for an employee to request a day off. A service designer might assess the situation, identify the issue by consulting with staff and managers, and devise a plan to improve the outcome. For example, they may advise the use of an app or a web portal, where all necessary parties can view and consider the request in real-time. In this example, service designers are working across departments to bring all the components of the customer journey together.

How Do We Implement Service Design?

Identifying any gaps in the customer journey where service is absent or poor is one of the first steps in the service design process. Service designers accomplish this by conducting research interviews with users, staff, and other stakeholders to help identify gaps or drop-off points. After gathering research and viewpoints from stakeholders, the service design team can then create a plan of action to improve or upgrade that experience. Service designers may use this feedback to create prototypes, which they can subsequently test and measure. It is critical that the service designer collaborates with all departments involved in the client’s journey to avoid creating unwanted communication silos. 

Experts advise businesses that if they want to stay competitive, they must prioritize the customer experience—and service design is a critical component of that. Service design is not only good for customers, but also for businesses and their employees. Service design helps to fulfill the promises that organizations make to their users by developing a plan of action for delivering on those promises.