What is Service Design and why is it important?

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

The importance of Service Design and how to adopt this way of thinking.

Service Design – a discipline on most radars in the agency and client world – is picking up pace. What's it all about? Well, for those not in the know, let’s start with a definition.

Service Design is the activity of planning and organising 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.

There's a lot in there that's not really to do with digital right? So why are digital agencies jumping on this? Well, it's all about giving value and getting results. It's true that a service and the application of the design is never 100% digital, however digital can solve the majority of the disconnects, challenges and brick walls services face.

From the Design Value Index Study, those who invest in Service Design win, and they win big. Standard & Poor’s 500 (S&P’s 500) companies that have adapted their culture to a service focus have seen a value increase of 211% in comparison to those that haven't.

Surely that's enough justification for any chief executive? Well, no, because "that's not my business and we run different verticals". They’re right. I'd be sceptical too.

The truth is taking on a Service Design culture is not for everyone and, as with User Experience (UX), it will take time to be initiated.

The current state of play

We are currently seeing Service Design go through the same sort of evolution that we saw UX go through over the past ten years.

The truth is, if you have been doing anything significant in digital over the last five years you will have been a conduit to Service Design without really knowing it. Start with the problem and the tech, conduct your research then jump into UX, iterate and test throughout the rest of the process. We have slowly and kind of unknowingly been offering our clients the digital transformation they needed in the last three years through Service Design thinking.

Lots of companies find it difficult to design a good service, simply because many are stuck in the ‘product mindset’. Products are a catalyst to silo departments. If the sales team are not aligned to the marketing team and the marketing team to the digital team, friction will be experienced, both internally and externally.

After reading a lot about user relationships, those who can accept the benefits of studying users as personas learn a lot. It's also important to remember that a service’s users are not just its customers. When staff are let down by applications and processes they get frustrated, that frustration floods out into the customer realm. Happy staff = happy customers.

Five steps to help you adopt service design thinking

  • Build lines of communication and a rapport with everyone involved in the delivery of your service, be they staff, suppliers or customers. Trust and transparency is key to the delivery of a successful project.
  • Co-create as much as you can. Bringing the various parties involved in a project together at the same time can be problematic, but it’s a short-term cost against a long-term gain.
  • Be sensible; release and test your iterations frequently. It's OK to be wrong, but to be wrong for a long time is not. Releasing everything at the end of a project is a pain and makes the project’s overall chances of failure far more likely.
  • Service Design can be a tough sell inside your organisation, so record and demonstrate the potential value on offer.
  • If you work exclusively in-house in an organisation where Service Design has been adopted or you are slowly introducing the concept, it's easier to take more time to add value. It's likely that value will be minimal, and it will take time to find it. If you work for a brand where perfection trumps ROI though, go for it.

Sam Evans is experience and strategy director at Rawnet

Get The Drum Newsletter

Build your marketing knowledge by choosing from daily news bulletins or a weekly special.