Are CX and Service Design the Same Thing?

Our recent article on UX vs CX has been getting a lot of attention over the past few weeks and has certainly sparked some opinion! People have have been reaching out to us to share their own professional insights on the definitions of UX and CX. There was one comment in particular that we thought was worth exploring: “Isn’t customer experience and service design the same thing?” This is a very important question, especially since people in different industries or fields might perceive them as meaning different things. But are they really just the same thing? Let’s take a look…

So what is Customer Experience?

CX is how your customers perceive their interactions with your company. Forrester defines customer experience as being 3 specific elements from a customer’s perspective: a company is useful (delivers value), usable (easy to use and gain value) and enjoyable (emotionally appealing so customers want to engage). This is presented nicely in Forrester’s Customer Experience Pyramid shown here:

The thought behind Forrester’s pyramid is that if the experience you’re designing fulfils these three elements, you’re creating a good customer experience. Managing the customer experience (CXM) focuses on customer’s perceptions of your company and what they experience throughout their journey with your company.

And what’s Service Design?

Similar to customer experience, service design is about the design and implementation of interactions that occur throughout the customer journey. Service designers also design the ‘behind the scenes’ elements that ensure that experiences are delivered as intended.

Generally though, people tend to associate service design with the public/civil service sector such as hospitals or transportation. SDN defines it as “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 service provider and customers.”

How is this different from CX?

Service design generally involves the complete experience design process while customer experience focuses more on the upkeep of those processes. Another element that differentiates service design from CX is the fact that service design is more often associated with businesses that provide commodities.

Depending on the industry or field though, the definitions of these concepts are often adapted. For example to some professionals the definition of UX might be closer to that of UI or the definition of CX closer to that of service design — it depends on the context. In the end, the differences between UX, CX, IxD and SD are subtle and they’re all very much dependent on each other when designing experiences in general.

So… Are they the same?

Partially, yes. Without good service design, the customer experience suffers. This is more true now that we’ve gone further into “the age of the customer” where delighting customers matters more than the generic business goals.

It’s important to remember that when designing experiences of any kind your customers are not necessarily your end-users. Also, since UX, CX and service design were originally defined a lot of things have changed. Your customers have become more tech-savvy and they have the power to choose between many competitors. These concepts have evolved, and continue to evolve, as technology and customer needs and demands do. Above all, in both CX and service design, it’s important for us as ‘experience designers’ to consider that consumer needs and demands are continuously changing.

Remember that while people in different fields or industries might define each of these concepts as being different things, they all have one thing in common: experience design.

Here are a few interesting discussions on this topic:

Are UX, CX, and IxD simply elements of SD? What do you think?

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