Service design: the process and the effects on customer service

Jan 17
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The big digital platform providers are telling us we have moved into an experience economy. One only needs to look at the growth and impact of user experience on businesses to know the emerging impact of service design.

Service design is the idea that all business processes and customer interactions are designed to fulfil customer goals across all channels, from face-to-face to digital. The objective is to present an even experience across all channels. A sign of success is a customer’s ability to start an interaction in one channel and move to another, seamlessly.

Service design has extended the service system[1] by applying a design process to create a consistent experience. This has typically included “i) service delivery: the combination of a service offering, execution, and completion as conducted by the service producer and ii) service consumption: the combination of a service request to a service producer and the associated acceptance of its completion” (M Lankhorst, 2012).

Five to six years ago people struggled to find service design projects that delivered profitability. But now our customers are expecting it. In the same way that brand and brand concepts have transgressed from advertising into popular culture, so too has a customer’s understanding that they are buying an experience.

To add to the complexity of design, customers are expecting a continuous process and product improvement. This increases the speed of development in line with “Moore’s law”, the idea that computer circuits themselves double every two years.

In Government, examples of service design include Roads and Maritime Services or Medicare’s use of a concierge directing/assisting people to resolve their problem. The concierge may direct customers to an agent or a self-service kiosk/PC. The idea is that it is a supported journey that is consistent.

In retail, service design has surfaced through the use of omni-channel and the idea of a seamless and frictionless experience that may start in one channel and be resolved in another. Click and Collect services are a demonstration of this where customers can research and purchase online but pick up in a store. The growth of general merchandise and click and collect sees pick up points such as a supermarket, for example buy from eBay but pick up in Woolworths.

A service design process

The key output of a service design process is the development of a service blueprint. It is essentially a customer experience map that details the process and way in which a service will be delivered (from end to end). It contains the frontend and back office processes, the customer experience and emotions along with key challenges and recommendations.

The process follows an enhanced design process that includes discovery, research and analysis, ideation/concepting and service concept development.

In the design process one would expect to see:

  • Stakeholder maps
  • Development of personas or archetypes
  • Research finding and key insights
  • Experience principles
  • Storyboarding and concept designs
  • Proto-typing
  • Service blueprints and recommendations

Once a service blueprint is signed off, detailed design and delivery occurs.

5 things to be aware of

Design should:

  1. Be customer centric
  2. Provide a cross channel, seamless and frictionless experience
  3. Promote value and deliver a transformation
  4. Be designed with user input, based on user behaviours
  5. Be proto-typed to test, learn and iterate

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[1] A value-coproduction configuration of people, technology, other internal and external service systems, and shared information (such as language, processes, metrics, prices, policies, and laws).”


Submitted by Peter Buckmaster

Peter Buckmaster

Peter is a digital specialist in strategy and service design delivering sustainable customer experiences across retail, telco, finance industries and education. He is currently the Director Digital, managing the Digital Services team, Department of Education (DoE) within the Communications and Engagement Directorate. The role includes delivering the “re-platforming and redevelop” of DoE websites onto a newly supported website publishing platform. This has also included delivery of a strategy, call the Global Experience Framework (Language), to achieve the velocity and speed needed to meet the short timeframes of website redevelopment. The DoE digital platform (website, intranet and portal) supports 2.75 million visits per month.

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