The reason why there is a lot of enthusiasm about service design is the increasing need for it; the logic in businesses has changed from goods-dominant to service-dominant logic. Marketing has changed. People want experiences and more tailored services. Design methods help to improve the quality of service to this direction.
How it works
Service design is used for innovation and development of services. It is the creation of services fit for purpose and for use. Service design methodologies analyse the interaction between service provider and customers. The approach is user-centered, but considers the entire environment of service.
There are hundreds of different service design tools for analysing the service, its user personas, and different parts of the customer experience. These tools are based on empathy, research, intuitive ideas, and prototyping. Finding a right method for each purpose is a talent in itself, and that is why the term ‘service designer’ is an actual profession.
The word service can make you think of the traditional customer service, but the ‘service’ in service design can be any part of the whole process. It could be used for the development of the products and processes, but also for company strategies and management architectures. ‘Service’ can be a specific part of the whole business process, and ‘customer’ the user of that particular service.
This is why the possibilities of service design are so great. It can enhance the value companies give to their customers with their products and services, but also the value that it gives to their employees, for instance. Service design produces best practices for everyone involved in the service.
Design thinking has been very visible in the media for the past couple of years. I think in Finland the use of service design has been most visible in the public sector. These methods can help cities with urban development and create better public services for citizens.
The City of Oulu has used service design for developing their libraries and making them more user-friendly. The City of Helsinki wants to support the use of design methods in teaching. They have just created a tool called “Koulujen muotoilupolku”, a “design path for Schools”. The purpose is to help teachers to solve problems and work together with the students in a more creative way. Both of these cities have been in the EU funded Smart Cities project. I think there is huge need for these kind of efforts in many cities. There is much to do in the fields of healthcare, transportation and sustainability for example.
Businesses in the private sector have also given a lot of attention to design thinking in order to create new ideas and innovation. Within the last couple of years service design has become its own industry, and there are more and more companies providing it.
However, based on conversations online and a few seminars I’ve attended, I think for quite many the term “service design” is still unclear. It can be used quite casually, sometimes without proper knowledge of the tools and methods involved. There is a lot of hype about it and many businesses are keen to say that they are doing it, but there is a lot more to service design than just knowing your target group, and describing your service as customer-oriented.
Service design is based on the idea of continuous development. The process starts from a strong base definition and research that generates an idea. From the idea it proceeds to prototyping, then production and evaluation. Repeating this process keeps the service up-to-date, develops it and creates innovations. Understanding the importance of these steps and especially the continuity of the process is often forgotten.
I think the interest in learning about this area is a positive sign. Many companies have realised that design thinking can add to their competitive capacity, and creating meaningful service experiences brings essential value to their product, and profit.
This is my essay for the Introduction to Service Design course I am taking as part of a Master’s degree program in Leadership and Service Design.