Awesome service design in 4 simple steps

Your service will never be perfect. There I’ve said it.

Chasing perfection is something we all do as service designers. Continual improvement is the reason we gather customer feedback on everything from the product to the end to end service.

Improving a service takes time but it’s not just the task of those sitting in a design lab. You need to bring cross-functional teams with you and more importantly involve customers in the process.

The best way to get this done is in a collaborative workshop where you bring together attendees from marketing, sales, product, technology and shared services.

So where to start?

  1. Define your customer

Sounds obvious but not everyone will share the same view of who your customer is and what they look like. You’ll need to bring your customer to life to help people design and improve while standing in the customer’s shoes. Build out your personas and support with any data or insights you can find. Put your personas in front of real customers and get them to validate them with you. Tease out their pain points and frustrations — surveys don’t always give you the clarity you need.

It’s a good idea to write down a user story or scenario so colleagues can coalesce around a common experience they are designing for. Remember few scenarios in life go to plan so throw in a few common hurdles that customers commonly come across.

A simple example

2. Map out your journey

Time for the brown paper.

Roll it out and stick up on a wall. Divide the sheet into swim-lanes.

At the top, note out the major steps a customer goes through. For a shopping experience it might be ‘discovery’ followed by ‘try, buy and pay’. Write out what happens during each stage. Think of these as footsteps. It might be that the customer is searching online for product information or searching a car park for a trolley.

Don’t forget to highlight the most important moments in the journey where customer emotion and expectation is heightened. It’s during these ‘Moments of Truth’ that you’ll want to deliver exceptional service. This is where you can aim to differentiate.

A simple creative exercise

You can either do this using simple brown paper or create a purpose built template.

3. Let your journey / service map live

The worst possible outcome is that you end up with a beautiful PDF that sits in a drive somewhere. The best way to keep your design and improvement thinking alive is to keep it interactive and visible.

At most clients we’ve worked with our service design content remains visible and is constantly re-worked. Employees are encouraged to ‘red-line’ the designs to drive continual improvement. The example below shows how you can use service maps to brainstorm ideas for adding value in and removing waste from the customer’s experience.

4. Review, refine & repeat

Remember that the world is changing everyday around us. Revisit your customer research and design thinking regularly. Customer expectation will change and evolve over time. Watch out for competitor moves and keep pace with technology changes. An idea that seemed moonshot in your workshop could soon become a reality.

Of course let’s not be under any illusion. Service design is more than personas and journey maps. Before these activities comes customer research and in the future service prototyping.

At Strategy Activist we work with clients to improve and launch new services. To learn more about how we can help visit us at or call us on +44 7786063053.

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