“To design” draws its origins from the Latin word “designare” which means to designate, choose, assign. When we design, we create connections, give meaning and purpose. Designing is a way of organizing the world.

We design tangible products but also experiences and the relationships we create with customers. In a previous article on how to create a great customer experience, we explain that CX is the sum of all brand-customer interactions.

Service Design is concerned with the design of services using the principles of Design Thinking. The plan is to create value for customers in two ways: by improving the quality of the service offered and by improving the interaction with customers. (Interaction Design Foundation)

Lynn Shostack, one of the leading practitioners of service design, coined the term in 1982 and placed service design under the responsibility of the marketing and management departments.  In the Harvard Business Review article, “Designing services that deliver,” Shostack states that better service design is the key to market success and growth. She proposed the development of a service design blueprint that maps the service delivery processes from the customer perspective. Shostak's blueprint has become of the most used tools to manage service operation, service design, and service positioning.

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In 1992, Service Design was introduced as a discipline by Michael Erlhoff and Brigit Mage, professors at Köln International School of Design. Several authors of Service Design theory including Pierre Eiglier, Richard Normann, and Nicola Morelli, emphasize that services exist by application, in contrast with products that are created and "exist" when are purchased and used.

In the book “This is service design thinking,” Marc Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider write that the five basic principles of service design are:

1. User-centricity. Customer service has to be based on a thorough understanding of the user, usually obtained through qualitative research;

2. Co-creation. Involve all stakeholders in the creation of your customer experience. Each member of the organization that produces, distributes, designs or promotes your service is an integral part of the customer service building process;

3. Sequencing. You gain control, and potentially more impact on the creation of great customers experience if you divide it into sequences like customer journeys or key moments;

4. Evidencing. Map customer experiences.  Make them visual, to better understand what matters most to your customers and why;

5. Holistic. Customer touch points are only a part of the overall brand-customer interactions. Maintain a sense of perspective on the importance of different activities that have to impact customer service.

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To craft an excellent customer service, designers need to understand how customers interact with your brand, from discovery - to conversion - to reengagement. Use qualitative research tactics like observations and contextual interviewing. Accessibility is one of the main impediments in getting accurate data from user research.  The design process includes the creation of personas, customer journey maps, stakeholder maps, and value network maps—based on the insights from qualitative research. (Interaction Design Institute)

In conclusion, Service Design is a way to improve and innovate services by applying the principles of Design Thinking. The aim is to create products that are useful, valuable, and competitive. This complex process involves research sessions to gather insight from users, brainstorming sessions, testing ideas and implementing the ones that provide the most value for customers.

Researchers from the Köln International School of Design state that service design is a discipline that evolves through application. Technology has been one of the significant transformative factors in service design. We’ll keep you up to date with how this transformation continues.