Elaheh Nazari

August 23, 2021

In today’s post-industrial economy, service design plays a really important role to understand and shape the future of what different people experience. Before moving to the core of service design, do not forget to learn a bit about the History of Service Design.

Defining Services

Services play a big part in this era; but what is the definition of service?

A Service is an exchange between a service provider and a Service User where the provider, provides a benefit for the User by doing a certain type of activity for which the User pays for with money or by doing something of the same value.

We see services all around us every day from the public services like public transportation, health care and religious services and many others. In most of these services the payment is paid from not direct ways.

Services are the soft infrastructure of society

We use services every day even for a task as simple as calling a colleague! So the world revolves around services and it’s safe to say they are “The Soft Infrastructure of Our Modern World”.

Services can be put in two categories: Typical Services & Digital Services.

Typical Services include transportations, saloons, restaurants, and even utilities like plumbing services and any other place that provides us with things that we need. On the other hand, Digital Services include all the social media and communications platforms that we use every day on our devices. Dependence on these services increases gradually.

Interactions are the core of services

Services are based on human actions and relationships and as service designers, we do not necessarily see them as economic activities but as human experiences. So there is uncertainty around services and human needs. But how can we know that a service is useful to society?

A Moment of Truth happens every time a user interacts with the service provider and this indicates the value of that service.

The difference between designing a service and a product is that for products, you design a 3d object with a purpose but as for services, there is a lot of unpredictability considering the needs and the interactions of users and it gets a little bit more complicated. But we can always make improvements on our service by studying the Moments of Truths and make our design user-centric.

When designing interactions, we should consider three things:

  1. The nature of human interactions because interactions vary from person to person
  2. Making a medium and space in which these interactions happen makes this medium easy for any user.
  3. Some services are used daily and some, maybe once in a lifetime so interactions are different for every service. We have to use this “continuous negotiation of interactions” and make our service better every time.

The Service-Dominant Logic

Based on this logic, the fundamental unit of human exchange and trade is service and not goods. People with different abilities, skills, and knowledge help others in need of those capabilities and get something or another service in return. Goods are just the result of the abilities of one or several humans put into a product.

Society still believes that products are the base of the economy and banks still offer their services as “products” but Vargo and Lusch proposed a “Service-Dominant Logic Model” in 2004 and based on that, we see goods as a derivation from services and not two different subjects.

The false divide between Services and Goods

The IHIP came up with a description for services not based on their strong points, but based on what they were lacking compared to goods:

  1. Services are not tangible and cannot be sensed or seen.
  2. Cultural contexts have effects on the result you get from using services because it is a human-to-human experience.
  3. Unlike goods, services are not produced and used by users later but the production and usage of services happen at the same time.
  4. Services cannot be stored and used later and they have meaning when there is demand.

The IHIP may have been right about services back then, but now it has changed as for text messaging services, we need a tangible mobile device. Services and goods are not considered apart but as one and “Services Encompass Goods”.

Product Service Systems

What is PSS? Imagine wanting a car to drive to a city but you don’t own a car; a rented car will just solve your problem. Laundromats and car-sharing services are considered PPS where you fulfill your need and use a product without owning it.

Products of Service

We argued that services can be tangible but how is that? How can we materialize services? What are the products of services?

The product of services is a combination of things including the fulfilled need, the experience of the user like the easy-to-use app, and other things. Now we are going to talk about some definitions revolving around designing the products of services:

  1. Service Offering: This part is where you show what your service is about and what is its main purpose and what kind of users may want to use this service.
  2. Touchpoints: Everything that makes your service YOUR service from the clothes the staff wears, your logo, digital apps, the architecture of your building, and anything like these are considered your touchpoints.
  3. Service Channels: Service channels are ways that users can contact you and access service touchpoints. They include emails, mail, telephone and apps, and so on. You may want to design them appealing!

The Service Economy

Here we are going to take a look at the market of service design and how it has improved through the years. After that, we will talk about Sharing Economy and what it is.

The Economics of Services

We discussed how goods are derived from services and how all economies are service economies. The world economy revolves around three areas: manufacturing, agriculture, and services. The main base of the economy in the U.S. and Europe comes from the service sector.

The service sector is getting more important day by day because it is not independent and other parts of the economy are dependent on it and it helps them grow. As for different countries with different needs and focuses, invest in different services to match their plans.

The Customer-Centric Organization

Unlike mass-produced goods, every service experience is different. Customized services are popular but they are very costly so here comes the question of “How to make services cost-efficient?” We must balance the standardization and customization of our services to a point that we meet users’ expectations. Service blueprint helps with this process and makes a balanced customer experience more achievable. You can analyze information from this to rework your design, make improvements, and make satisfaction rates higher. 

Digital Services

The Digital Life

Technology has had an impact on our day-to-day life and as new technologies get developed, they change the world and services must adapt to this change or they will go obsolete. The services that use the new information and communication technologies are called Digitally Enabled Services and here are some of the examples:

  1. Some services that we use are “free” to use but they also make their money from advertisements; like most websites and social media that we use every day.
  2. With the introduction of smartphones, some digital services turned to them and offered their services there. The benefit of this was that now their services were more accessible and didn’t require using a computer. With each device that gets introduced every day like smartwatches, digital services look to be present there.

The Internet of Things

IoT has three major elements:

  1. The sensor devices
  2. Connectivity
  3. People and Processes

Some devices scan things and get information about them (Sensors), store or send that information to people or systems (People and Process) via Bluetooth or Wifi, or Cellular (Connectivity). For example, the new smartwatches monitor your heart rate and your activity throughout the day and send that information to your smartphone where you can see them.

Challenges of an Increasingly Digital World

One of the challenges and problems is that when you implement technology in society, you cannot be sure whether it gets used in the way it was made to be used. For example, Facebook is now used in a way that it was not made to be used in.

Another problem is that if everything becomes smart and every aspect of our lives gets monitored, we might feel like we are being watched and our sense of privacy is in danger.

Also, the increase in digital services usage might raise a generation that is dependent on smart systems and might not be able to live their lives without them.

The Role of Service Design in Digital Services

Developers mostly focus on technology and improving it and they might forget that they should make technology people-centric. That is where the service designer’s role gets important as they try to design the new technologies to be human-centered. The designers question the design to make the user experience better. As technology updates, designers must find ways to use that in different services.

Services for Public Interest

Service Innovation and the Public Sector

The questions “how should the education system be? How should transportation be and how should we support the elderly?” all must be answered by the public sector and for each country and city, there might be different answers.

The need for better public services by people is the main reason why governments are hiring designers to improve the public sector services with their design methods and innovations. Public service designing is important for making lives better but it’s also much more different from private services because governments may be much larger than a simple company and coordination between them might become a challenge.

Service Design Capability for the Public Sector

Here we are going to learn about what designers can do for the public sector and what are the results and the limitations.

  1. “Design for Discrete Problems”: this is where when the government faces a new problem concerning public services, they hand the problem over to the service designers and seek their advice and solution.
  2. “Design for Capability”: “This involves nurturing design as an internal capability of governmental agencies.” it can happen by either holding workshops for public servants to learn about service design approaches and methods or by hiring in-house designers in public departments where the designer can work on both small inside projects as well as external design consultancies.
  3. “Design for Policy”: Much like R&D departments, governments make labs that have the sole purpose of developing projects that affect government policy in the long run.

However, there are fingers pointed at the governments that use service design because they might be really expensive and designers get criticized because people believe that they only use their innovations in the early stages and when the design is implemented, their presence is diminished.

Social Innovation and Collaborative Services

It is believed that “People” are the root of social innovations and this gives social innovations a people-centric nature. People take small initiatives and present ideas and these ideas catch the eye of larger audiences and let them know what people are looking for. When citizens get involved in this process like this, it results in what we know as collaborative services.

The Policies of Service Design

The Drama of Services: Emotional Labor

Emotions are a part of humans and services are human-to-human interactions. As companies try to industrialize service provisions for better efficiency, they forget about the emotional labor that the staff has to go through and that results in their burnout or alienation. At some jobs, the staff has to go through training to learn how to manage this emotional labor especially the frontline workers. Simple things such as smiling, good appearance and speech abilities of the staff play a big role in the success of service.

Environmental Sustainability of Services

Industrial production, which has focused on making faster production lines to match the consumer demands, and make products that are cheaper to make but have a low lifespan, is the main source of the emissions and environmental problems.

For designers, there is no universal tool that connects all the dots and tells them which part of the production is affecting the environment in what way! But some guidelines help them make better decisions and maintain environmental sustainability.

“The Code of Professional Ethics” proposed by ICSISD is about some principles that Designers have to follow to protect the environment. And “The Okala Ecodesign Strategy Wheel” suggests strategies for Designers to make their Designs more Eco-Friendly.

Source: okala

Services as Systems and the Issue of Organizations Politics

Most of the time, many organizations must come together to offer a service. Some of them are vital and some may be additional but the thing is, all of these organizations have their own rules and policies, and balancing and coordinating them might be a challenge!

Designers may need to change these rules and protocols of these organizations to redesign or improve existing services, but the idea of change may not be pleasant for the organizations that have their own legacy and have worked this way for a long time.

Designing for Services

A New Kind of Design?

Service design includes both the material and strategic side of design. Design requires both analytical abilities and innovative skills.

To be a good designer, you must be creative and have ideas, and be able to invent and change and improve the ways that already exist; but only having ideas will not be enough! A designer must study different cultures and understand the needs and design things that have meaning and purpose.

Designers must have imagination and be able to bring those ideas into reality and be able to explain them to others and even be able to visualize them by drawing and sketching them. Designers strive to make people’s lives easier by inventing or improving the current services or products.

Core Principles of Service Design

  1. Service Design is People-Centered: Services are for the people and we must recognize and investigate their needs and have consideration for customers and try to make a better user experience for them.
  2. Service Design Depends on Participation and Co-design: Designers may need to work together so they must know how to engage in conversations and share their insights and ideas with other colleagues.
  3. Service Design is Communicated Through Service Narratives: Different narration tools, especially visual narratives can help decision-makers to see how a new service in a certain due time will look like, and how the interactions will be set between different players including backstage, frontstage, and users. “Service narratives can help us capture all the complexity of people’s lives.”
  4. Service Design includes the Material Side of Services: Touchpoints are among the material side of services. Touchpoints make your brand YOUR brand and are essential for a better user experience.
  5. Service Design is Holistic: Many organizations come together to offer a service and we consider them as a whole but we have to make sure they can communicate well. Sometimes as the service gets larger, there may be different channels for users to use the service and we have to make sure that service delivery is consistent regardless of whatever channel the users choose.

What Kind of Project and What Kind of Benefit?

The problems that designers must solve mostly go into these categories:

  1. Analytical: Projects where we need to analyze and make decisions based on the data and information that we are provided with to evaluate and make improvements.
  2. Recommendation: Projects where designers are asked to give their insights and recommendations on the processes or strategies that the organization uses. These recommendations may take years to be implemented.
  3. Experiential and learning outputs leading to organizations change: In some projects, designers are asked to make educational sessions and workshops for the staff and even users and show them the new practices and even change the organizational cultures.
  4. New service experiences materialized through touchpoints and servicescapes, journeys, and protocols: Sometimes designers are asked to design service touchpoints or even create them! Or ask other professional designers, like architects and product designers, to help with creating the touchpoints that they find necessary.

If you would like to learn more about how we do service design with Clojure developers, just drop us an email, so we can have a remote coffee together, to help with your services.


An Introduction to Service Design: Designing the Invisible by Lara Penin

Download for Designing the Invisible!

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