First, let’s define a “service”
The best way to understand service design is to start with the basics: what is a service? It’s not as easy to define as a product, which is tangible and something we can observe.
But most products have a service or even multiple ones attached to them. Imagine something as simple as a pair of Adidas shoes. Within just that one product you can find: a physical store, an app, and even a fitness app – all of which are providing customers with a variety of services. It’s a great example of how a product can evolve into an ecosystem of experiences for customers, supported by various services that reflect the different stages of the relationship between the customer and the company.
If you look at things in this framework, service is almost everywhere around you. For example, just look at your average day. How many services do you think you use in a regular work day? If you go to a gym in the morning, order your lunch from a courier app, and end your day watching Netflix, that’s already 3 different services.
As you can see now, service is everywhere. But good service is rare. Who can transform a bad or average service into something great? Well, service designers. We bring on a professional to design digital products, so it only makes sense you need a professional to design the nuances of the services delivered via that app. In short, we’ve reached a fundamental definition: Service Design is a process that sets and manages the quality and consistency of services – in all interactions that a user has with a company. Good service design can be the difference between your business being remembered for a 20 minute queue or a seamless transition from the customer request to their desired result.
Why is service design so important today?
Today, we have a lot of similar and high quality products. It’s easier than ever to get the technical part of an application right – we can copy a codebase, we have research, we know the common pitfalls. But services are unique, because they deliver experiences for users that lie in the emotional realm, not the technical. It’s hard to copy and it’s hard to create.
Two similar products, from two different companies can be completely different thanks to the quality of the service they provide and the experience they deliver to users. It’s about how you make users feel, how you can help, assist, and understand them. And that’s what makes service design an important piece of the product development process.
If companies don’t care about service design, their reputation is at risk. Consumers have many ways to instantaneously share their experiences and feelings with the world. Bad services result in a bad review on social media, easily shared with the world. Funnily enough, we even have services to help you deal with bad services. For example, airlines are being pressured to make more reimbursements since services such as Aireclaim have appeared.
At this point, you might find you understand enough about service design to become hyper-aware of bad service.
Service Design and Touchpoints: It’s a Match
Before we can conclude this intro to Service Design, we need to define one of the most important elements: touchpoints. Services are intangible, but we can have a tangible representation of this service: a touchpoint. Touchpoints are artifacts that can bring tangibility to services.
An interesting example is found in Sephora. They redesigned their customers’ experience of their store by mapping the user experience. They found that the basket is a touchpoint that could lead to the reinvention of a common pain point for retail customers: being approached for help. Some people want the assistance, but can’t ever seem to find an available salesperson. Others will walk out of a store if someone approaches them for help.
The problem is, there was no existing way to tell which is which. And so, the feat of service design we see here is changing the basket into a service touchpoint: customers can pick red if they want help or black if they don’t want to be approached. It’s a simple change. But it took thought. And the impact is so strong. It changed the user experience of the store completely.
So, where is service design most useful?
It’s useful for pretty much any service you offer around your product, but there are different dimensions to consider. Are you offering a completely new service or refining something existing? Is it digital, physical, or hybrid? And are you aiming your service internally to your employees or to your external customer base?
If you’re interested in the details of Service Design and its use cases in fintech, stay tuned. We’ll take a deeper dive about how the principles of Service Design can be applied to digital products and fintech.