Service design requires big-picture thinking. This means not merely focusing on designing the particular products and tools used in the interchange between customers and service providers, but also understanding and optimizing how everything and everyone fits together — who does what, when and how they do it — to achieve a desired result. As service designers, we talk about the “line of visibility,” and study both the “onstage” activities (what the customer sees and hears) and the “backstage” activities (services, processes, and tools used behind the scenes), and we choreograph the interplay.
As illustrated in the figure below, when designing (or redesigning) a service, we take a top-down approach, starting by focusing on the desired experience, and from there considering the interactions, touchpoints, and procedures needed to create it. Armed with this knowledge, we are able to determine the best products and tools to use, and we design these to optimize the overall experience.
To be successful, we must:
- Have a clear understanding of the reason and demand for the service, and the ability of the provider to deliver.
- Focus the design on customers’ needs, ensuring that the service will be valuable and efficient.
- Treat “unusual” circumstances and typical situations as equally important in thinking out the requirements to accommodate them, as that’s when service often breaks down.
- Design with input from users of the service, and collaboration with all relevant stakeholders providing the service.
- Prototype the service before developing it in full.
- Start with a minimum viable service (MVS), and use an iterative design process based on feedback and analysis to refine and add to the service.