Service design

Is an iterative process in four steps

Fundamentally and in reality, it is not a linear process and certainly not a standard process. But as service design is a complex process, we work in four different steps to structure the approach.  The basic service design approach consists of exploration, creation, reflection, and implementation.

It is also an iterative process. That means that it must be able to return to the previous step regularly, or even start all over again from scratch. It is necessary to be critical and courageous to step back, start all over again, or even stop the design process. The benefit of structuring the design process is that it enables a greater degree of reflection upon all activities, outcomes and influences of the design team.

Keep always the entire process in mind (from a helicopter view), especially when you put a lot of energy in the improvement of a concrete activity with lots of details.  E.g. if you are redesigning employee interactions between sales and marketing staff, it is also important to consider the organizational level and structure as a whole. In other words, it is not a success to work on interactions between two people respectively from the marketing and sales department, as these departments themselves need to improve cooperation and interaction.

Four steps

The starting point in the exploration phase is the customer. Whether it is for current customers or potential customers, it is essential to properly understand the situations, interactions, customer journeys, attitudes and expectations of the (potential) customers. Ways of researching are for example by going on an exploratory manner in conversation with the customer, customer panels, or by observing customers. The ways in which this information is obtained, and the attention to details are keys to future success.

During the creation stage, it is all about designing, testing and retesting ideas and concepts. It is a co-creative ideation process, where it is important to involve all main stakeholders and to work with interdisciplinary teams that include customers, managers, employees, engineers, designers, sales, marketing and other stakeholders. In this stage it is important to stimulate co-creativity as much as possible, and to work user-centred. Using sticky notes for visualizing the process is another key to success. The creation stage is closely related to the reflection stage. Practically, there are a variety of methods and tools which can be used in the creation stage. E.g. designing hypothetical stories, drawing storyboards (sequence of events), or even using Lego materials to express a service environment ,can all be interesting to use during the creation stage.

As already told, the reflection stage is closely related to the creation stage. However, in the reflection stage it is important to build or prototype service concepts in reality or circumstances close to reality. But the main challenge at this stage in the process is dealing with the intangibility of services. Therefore it will be very helpful to consider carefully how to provide customers with a good mental image about the future service. That is the main goal at this stage. In order to obtain emotional engagement for the new service, the way in which this is proposed will be of great importance. Methods which are useful for this purpose and help visualize the new service are again methods like  storyboards, a comic strip, video, photos, simulations and co-creation. Feedback needs to be collected in a thorough way through interviews, observation, surveys.

A design process is not successful, if the new service isn’t implemented properly. The implementation stage may be considered as a real change or transformation stage, with lots of obstacles and resistances. Therefore it is very important to work with ‘ambassadors’, who were already involved and contributed already in earlier stages. If they have a clear vision of the concept, and if they were already involved in developing and testing the prototype of the new service in interaction with real customers, there is a high probability of a successful implementation. Successful methods we use in this stage are storytelling, service blueprints, testing with real customers or role plays, business model canvas and action plans.

In every stage we have several workshops with main stakeholders, but with different goals, perspectives  and approaches.

If you want more information about service design thinking and  to evaluate if this approach could be interesting for your organization, contact THRUST

For more information about our services, click here