What Is ‘Service Design’ And Why Do You Need It?

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There’s a lot of noise about Service Design in business circles at the moment. But despite reaching buzzword status, many are still unclear on what it is, and how it can really influence the direction of any business. Essentially, it’s a way of organising people and services.

Now, if we started talking about UX design, chances are you’d be right with us, right? UX has garnered a lot press over recent years, providing a much-lauded method for developing technological platforms. So, is Service Design just another facet of UX? The short answer is no. However, there is much they have in common, and they are both intrinsically interlinked.

Service Design in Simple Terms

If we do the old Wikipedia search, you’ll find this definition for Service Design:

Service design is the activity of planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between the service provider and its customers. Service design may function as a way to inform changes to an existing service or create a new service entirely.

See what we mean about the similarities between this and UX? Both have the quality of interactions between services and people at their core. But that is a huge and misleading simplification of what Service Design actually is.

The reason why those-in-the-know are getting so excited about Service Design, is because of the global view it takes on business services. UX Design is all about compartmentalising. Of breaking down parts of a service to troubleshoot and perfect.

Service Design, on the other hand, looks at all the services a business has to offer. And yes, we’re talking both on and offline. Because all businesses in some sense or another have both those elements. So, there’s this powerful reason, and the fact that actually, companies that are implementing Service Design into their strategy are getting results.

The difference between SD and UX

If we were to break it down, these are the things that differentiate Service Design from UX. All the while, it’s worth remembering that these same points are the reason why UX Designers are so hot on Service Design:

  • Service Design takes an overarching look at all services in a business: whereas UX Design tends to focus on digital products
  • Service Design takes a global view of how services slot together, and how they can be improved: in contrast, UX Design silos different products and works on making those specific platforms better
  • Service Design will answer global problems: in line with this, Service Designers will answer pain-points related to the business as a whole. For example, investigating why and where customer enquiries drop off. UX Designers will look at the touch points of their specific platform.

How Service Design is shaking things up

It’s interesting to note that despite the rise of the coined phrase, Service Design, many companies have naturally taken a look at their business services as a whole for many years. In fact, UX Designers themselves have spent the past few years promoting the benefits of working in alignment with the rest of the business. As a bridge between tech and people, it’s a mindset that comes as second nature for UX folk.

But, that said, separating business areas continues to be a challenge for many. In fact, often the bigger the business, the more troublesome it can be to take that bird’s eye view across it. The power of Service Design is that it provides not only a name for the solution to this problem, but a specific way of working to overcome it.

By creating a service blueprint, user journey map and developing an understanding of how all interactions are linked between business and user, Service Designers are able to create a workable big-picture view.

It’s (still) all about the user

Any UX fan will notice that those common threads between methods from the paragraph above. For starters, the user journey map is something of a must-have for any UX Designer looking at a product.

The reason for this is that it’s still all about the user, just like UX Design. Yes, Service Design takes an unabashed look at its own reflection in the mirror, looking at exactly where its services are working well, and where they’re falling down, but this is all with the user in mind.

What Service Design really does, is consider the structure of all systems in place to see where it can be tweaked, improved and streamlined. Its power lies in the fact that it’s not just about examining different business areas, services or products one by one. Instead, it looks at how everything affects the whole and focuses on the areas that need work. If you likened it to a human body, Service Design would take the overall health of the body itself and find out which areas needed a little TLC to work better, then decide what methods should be used to achieve the result.

This way of working is what makes it a boon for any UX professional because the ethos perfectly echoes that of the user-centric approach UX offers. Eventually, the end result is with the user in mind. This unique view allows those in roles across the business, including UX Designers, to operate more efficiently, and develop products and ways of working that allow the company to go from strength to strength.

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