Service Design: CX and UX as a competitive business advantage

The potential of invisible design to impact business

Bettina D'ávila
Jun 2, 2020 · 7 min read
Image from @darkjet

Many organisations today, from startups to governments, are investing in customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) for their success, bringing more human-centred design capabilities to increase the business relevance of their projects for clients. And this is happening thanks to a growing number of organisations struggling to meet customers’ expectations and delivering a consistent quality of service across different channels, affirms Marzia Aricò in this article.

“Design is trending in business. Management and IT consulting firms have started a race in acquisitions of strategic design firms, bringing human-centred design capabilities and talent in house to improve their digital offer” — Marzia Aricò

According to J. Sorofman in a study from 2014 named “Gartner Surveys Confirm Customer Experience Is The New Battlefield”, 89% of companies expected to be competing mostly on the basis of customer experience by 2016, whereas only 36% were doing so back in 2010. When organisations start implementing it, they often start tracking customer satisfaction — with NPS, surveys and interviews, for instance. Meaningful iteration and UX research helps keeping the cycle of service design alive.

But what is Service Design?

Service Design is the practical application of design thinking to the development of services (design thinking is a non-linear and iterative process to solve complex problems in a user-centered way).

The Design Thinking process by H. Plattner, Institute of Design at Stanford. Additional visual design by Hidde Burgmans MSc (UX Planet)

However the biggest difference is in the practitioners: design thinking is mostly practiced by non-designers (it’s used as a mindset, a way of thinking) whereas service design is mostly practiced by designers, making use of more elaborate and extensive design methods to directly impact all facets of an organisation (business objectives are service related, like increasing NPS or minimising churn, for instance).

For this reason, we cannot define service design as a sole discipline because it’s an interdisciplinary field. When you design a service, you create experiences and to do so requires the manipulation and combination of both tangible and intangible mediums.

“Bubble Bath” by Vita Marija Murenaite

In This is Service Design Doing book, the author Marc Stickdorn stresses that the outcome of a service design process can have various forms: rather abstract organisational structures, operation processes, service experiences and even concrete physical objects. But the approach refers to the process of designing rather than to its outcome. According to Julia Pahl-Schoenbein, “service design skills are also useful because they can transform employees and managers to be truly user-centered”.

“Service Design (…) is the activity of orchestrating people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to create value for all stakeholders involved, build a distinctive brand experience and maximise business potential” — Koos Service Design

Service Design Thinking

Designing a service entails a specific way of thinking, and this is why Marc Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider (from the book mentioned above) decided to call their approach Service Design Thinking, whereas service design applies design thinking to services and focus on doing, not just talking. In this book, the authors show us how to facilitate workshops and run projects, embed service design thinking in your organization — whether it’s a corporation, a government, an SME or a start-up — to change the way the teams work together as they adopt a more hands-on and human-centered approach, building success for your organization. To summarise: a great product empowered by a great service results on a great business 🤩.

This approach only exists thanks to the popularity of design thinking, I dare say. Many tech companies started shedding light on the methodology a few decades ago in response to its adoption by many high-profile companies such as Google, Apple and Airbnb. According to their authors, Service Design Thinking is rooted in six principles currently (these principles went through an evolution from 2010 until 2017):

  1. Human-centered: Consider the experience of all affected by the service;
  2. Collaborative: Stakeholders of various backgrounds and functions should be actively engaged in the service design process;
  3. Iterative: Service design is an exploratory, adaptive, and experimental approach, iterating toward implementation;
  4. Sequential: The service should be visualized and orchestrated as a sequence of interrelated actions:
  5. Real: Needs should be researched in reality, ideas prototyped in reality, and intangible values evidenced as physical or digital reality;
  6. Holistic: Services should sustainably address the needs of all stakeholders through the entire service and across the business.

Service Design at AB Tasty

Customer relationship is key at AB Tasty. Nevertheless, the term “Service Design” was never embraced by us for a simple reason: it is a fairly new term (and I realized in France is not really used). Nonetheless, what we’ve been calling User Experience + Customer Experience is actually what Service Design entails.

How teams are organised at AB Tasty
The total design spectrum by UX Planet

Since customer support is a big part of our product as well, we thought it was important to build internal training programs for our Customer Success Managers, Sales and HR. Thus, we created the UX Academy, an internal program to promote UX as a strategic asset at AB Tasty. Also, we conduct parallel workshops on specific topics with the Client and Sales teams. The goal is to teach best practices and methodologies and make everyone understand their importance on practicing and promoting customer experience in the company.

As you can see in the picture above, the Product team is responsible for the user experience of the product itself but all other possible interactions between AB Tasty and our customers are handled by all teams.

The main purpose of UX Academy, the internal Design training program at AB Tasty, is to see that Customer Experience is part of the UX process as a whole.

Snap from one of the UX Academy sessions in our office in Madrid, March 2019
Design Thinking workshop in our office in Paris, January 2020

Objectively, all the participants feel more integrated in the Design process in the company. They know that what they do on a daily basis (onboarding clients, answering the phone, replying to support tickets and emails, building a training program, conducting face to face meetings or even just opening the door at our office) is all part of the user journey and therefore they are extremely important in building a strong customer experience and a holistic approach to the service we provide to our customers, partners, colleagues and investors.

Here’s a testemonial from Kasthuri as an example of the importance of integrating the Customer Success Managers in the design process at AB Tasty, so they can help our clients better understand user behaviour, identify and correct points of friction on their websites, and create personalized web experiences following UX best practices.

Meet Kasthuri, Customer Success Managers at AB Tasty

Let’s keep moving!

We want to keep growing in this field and propose even more training programs to evangelize not only the employees at AB Tasty, but also to establish a stronger connection with our customers and partners through events, talks, fairs and workshops. For instance, we organise regular events with clients, partners and prospects in different locations around the globe. Few examples are “Mad CRO” in Madrid, “Conversion Stammtisch” in Berlin, “The Breakfast Club” in London and “Conversions & Cocktails” in New York.

Also, we manage on a regular-basis Webinars with employees and guests to discuss different topics around conversion optimisation, design practices, marketing & much more. Especially now, in this unprecedented time we are all facing worldwide due to COVID-19 pandemic, Webinars and other formats of remote training are very much appreciated by our clients and partners. On the link below you can watch the videos of all the Webinars we’ve made so far:

If you have any suggestions and ideas that might be useful for us to enrich this exchange, don’t hesitate to get in touch — we will be happy to hear from you! As you can see, Service Design is indeed a competitive business strategy and no product without a customer approach will survive these days.

Stay safe ❤

The AB Tasty Tech & Product Blog

Learn about AB Tasty’s world class engineering efforts…

Bettina D'ávila

Written by

Designer, drummer & beer lover. Senior Product Designer based in Paris. Find me at

The AB Tasty Tech & Product Blog

Learn about AB Tasty’s world class engineering efforts, company culture, product developments and more. We are facing specific challenges and we share it with you. GCP (Google Cloud Platform), AWS (Amazon Web Services), Dedicated Servers, CDN

Bettina D'ávila

Written by

Designer, drummer & beer lover. Senior Product Designer based in Paris. Find me at

The AB Tasty Tech & Product Blog

Learn about AB Tasty’s world class engineering efforts, company culture, product developments and more. We are facing specific challenges and we share it with you. GCP (Google Cloud Platform), AWS (Amazon Web Services), Dedicated Servers, CDN

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