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.
The purpose of service design methodologies is to establish best practices for designing services according to both the needs of customers and the competencies and capabilities of service providers. If a successful method of service design is employed, the service will be user-friendly and relevant to the customers, while being sustainable and competitive for the service provider. For this purpose, service design uses methods and tools derived from different disciplines, ranging from ethnography to information and management science to interaction design. Service design concepts and ideas are typically portrayed visually, using different representation techniques according to the culture, skill and level of understanding of the stakeholders involved in the service processes (Krucken and Meroni, 2006).
Early service design and theory
Early contributions to service design were made by G. Lynn Shostack, a bank and marketing manager and consultant, in the form of written articles and books. The activity of designing service was considered to be part of the domain of marketing and management disciplines in the early years. For instance, in 1982 Shostack proposed the integration of the design of material components (products) and immaterial components (services). This design process, according to Shostack, can be documented and codified using a "service blueprint" to map the sequence of events in a service and its essential functions in an objective and explicit manner. A service blueprint is an extension of a customer journey map, and this document specifies all the interactions a customer has with an organization throughout their customer lifecycle.
Servicescape is a model developed by B.H. Booms and Mary Jo Bitner to emphasize the impact of the physical environment in which a service process takes place and to explain the behavior of people within the service environment, with a view to designing environments that accomplish organizational goals in terms of achieving desired behavioral responses.
Service design education and practice
In 1991, service design was first introduced as a design discipline by professors Michael Erlhoff and Brigit Mager at Köln International School of Design (KISD). In 2004, the Service Design Network was launched by Köln International School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University, Linköpings Universitet, Politecnico di Milano and Domus Academy in order to create an international network for service design academics and professionals.
In 2001, Livework, the first service design and innovation consultancy, opened for business in London. In 2003 Engine, initially founded in 2000 in London as an ideation company, positioned themselves as a service design consultancy.
Service design practice is the specification and construction of processes that delivers valuable capacities for action to a particular customer. Service design practice can be both tangible and intangible and it can involve artifacts or other elements such as communication, environment and behaviors. Several authors of service design theory including Pierre Eiglier, Richard Normann, Nicola Morelli, emphasize that services come to existence at the same moment they are being provided and used. In contrast, products are created and "exist" before being purchased and used. While a designer can prescribe the exact configuration of a product, s/he cannot prescribe in the same way the result of the interaction between customers and service providers, nor can s/he prescribe the form and characteristics of any emotional value produced by the service.
Consequently, service design is an activity that, among other things, suggests behavioral patterns or "scripts" to the actors interacting in the service. Understanding how these patterns interweave and support each other are important aspects of the character of design and service. This allows greater customer freedom, and better provider adaptability to the customers' behavior.
Together with the most traditional methods used for product design, service design requires methods and tools to control new elements of the design process, such as the time and the interaction between actors. An overview of the methodologies for designing services is proposed by Nicola Morelli in 2006, who proposes three main directions:
- Identification of the actors involved in the definition of the service by means of appropriate analytical tools
- Definition of possible service scenarios, verifying use cases, and sequences of actions and actors’ roles in order to define the requirements for the service and its logical and organizational structure
- Representation of the service by means of techniques that illustrate all the components of the service, including physical elements, interactions, logical links and temporal sequences
Analytical tools refer to anthropology, social studies, ethnography and social construction of technology. Appropriate elaborations of those tools have been proposed with video-ethnography and different observation techniques to gather data about users’ behavior. Other methods, such as cultural probes, have been developed in the design discipline, which aim to capture information on customers in their context of use (Gaver, Dunne et al. 1999; Lindsay and Rocchi 2003).
Design tools aim at producing a blueprint of the service, which describes the nature and characteristics of the interaction in the service. Design tools include service scenarios (which describe the interaction) and use cases (which illustrate the detail of time sequences in a service encounter). Both techniques are already used in software and systems engineering to capture the functional requirements of a system. However, when used in service design, they have been adequately adapted to include more information concerning material and immaterial components of a service, as well as time sequences and physical flows. Crowdsourced information has been shown to be highly beneficial in providing such information for service design purposes, particularly when the information has either a very low or very high monetary value. Other techniques, such as IDEF0, just in time and total quality management are used to produce functional models of the service system and to control its processes. However, it is important to note that such tools may prove too rigid to describe services in which customers are supposed to have an active role, because of the high level of uncertainty related to the customer's behavior.
Because of the need for communication between inner mechanisms of services and actors (such as final users), representation techniques are critical in service design. For this reason, storyboards are often used to illustrate the interaction of the front office. Other representation techniques have been used to illustrate the system of interactions or a "platform" in a service (Manzini, Collina et al. 2004). Recently, video sketching (Jegou 2009, Keitsch et al. 2010) and prototypes (Blomkvist 2014) have also been used to produce quick and effective tools to stimulate customers' participation in the development of the service and their involvement in the value production process.
Public sector service design
Public sector service design is associated with civic technology, open government, e-government, and can be either government-led or citizen-led initiatives. The public sector is the part of the economy composed of public services and public enterprises. Public services include public goods and governmental services such as the military, police, infrastructure(public roads, bridges, tunnels, water supply, sewers, electrical grids, telecommunications, etc.), public transit, public education, along with health care and those working for the government itself, such as elected officials. Due to new investments in hospitals, schools, cultural institutions and security infrastructures in the last few years, the public sector has expanded. The number of jobs in public services has also grown; such growth can be associated with the large and rapid social change that is calling for a reorganization. In this context, governments are considering service design for a reorganization of public services.
In 2002 MindLab, an innovation public sector service design group was established by the Danish ministries of Business and Growth, Employment, and Children and Education. MindLab was the one of the world's first public sector design innovation labs and their work inspired the proliferation of similar labs and user-centered design methodologies deployed in many countries worldwide. The design methods used at MindLab are typically an iterative approach of rapid prototyping and testing to evolve not just their government projects, but also government organizational structure using ethnographic-inspired user research, creative ideation processes, and visualization and modeling of service prototypes. In Denmark, design within the public sector has been applied to a variety of projects including rethinking Copenhagen's waste management, improving social interactions between convicts and guards in Danish prisons, transforming services in Odense for mentally disabled adults and more.
In 2007 and 2008 documents from the British government explore the concept of "user-driven public services" and scenarios of highly personalized public services. The documents proposed a new view on the role of service providers and users in the development of new and highly customized public services, utilizing user involvement. This view has been explored through an initiative in the UK. Under the influence of the European Union, the possibilities of service design for the public sector are being researched, picked up, and promoted in countries such as Belgium.
Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) (also known as Nudge) was originally part of the UK cabinet and was founded in 2010, in order to apply nudge theory to try to improve UK government policy, services and save money. As of 2014, BIT became a decentralized, semi-privatized company with Nesta (charity), BIT employees and the UK government each owning a third of this new business. That same year a Nudge unit was added to the United States government under president Obama, referred to as the ‘US Nudge Unit,’ working within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Clinical service redesign is an approach to improving quality and productivity in health. A redesign is clinically led and involves all stakeholders (e.g. primary and secondary care clinicians, senior management, patients, commissioners etc.) to ensure national and local clinical standards are set and communicated across the care settings. By following the patient's journey or pathway, the team can focus on improving both the patient experience and the outcomes of care.
Private sector service design
A practical example of service design thinking can be found at the Myyrmanni shopping mall in Vantaa, Finland. The management attempted to improve the customer flow to the second floor as there were queues at the landscape lifts and the KONE steel car lifts were ignored. To improve customer flow to the second floor of the mall (2010) Kone Lifts implemented their 'People Flow' Service Design Thinking by turning the Elevators into a Hall of Fame for the 'Incredibles' comic strip characters. Making their Elevators more attractive to the public solved the people flow problem. This case of service design thinking by Kone Elevator Company is used in literature as an example of extending products into services.
Select service design organizations
Related design roles
Related business and practices
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