Deciphering Service Design: The Power of Customer-Centric Approaches to Problem Solving

Using a customer-centric approach to problem-solving benefits both the organization and customer, developing unique solutions to persistent problems.

June 14, 2020

Every organization wants to serve its customers in the best possible way while also increasing revenue, engaging employees, and finding better solutions to problems. Efficiently doing this is doubly important as it saves the company time, energy and resources. This is where service design comes in — a way to serve customers best and help the company’s needs.

What is Service Design?

Service design is a way of solving complex problems using design tools and methods that develop or improve products and services. It keeps the end-user in mind first and involves collaborations among multidisciplinary teams within an organization. Service design follows a specific process and is ultimately about finding better solutions to problems.

Service design is a human-centric process. It allows organizations to come up with a deeper understanding of their customers' wants and the best way to deliver that solution. It follows a clear process that involves a thorough investigation into the consumer’s needs and then brainstorming and testing solutions to problems identified during that investigation. It reduces assumptions about what consumers need, and the time and resources wasted on those assumptions. Service design is also a collaborative process that brings together a variety of people with different skills and knowledge to find solutions to problems.

The Service Design Process

Service design involves a clear process with four stages that allow organizations to get to know their consumers — or maybe walk a mile in their shoes — and then define what their key problem is. The next part of the process involves coming up with many ideas to get the broadest number of possibilities for solutions and then testing those possibilities to see, which results in the most favourable consumer reaction.

Although service design has clear stages, they don’t necessarily have to happen one after the other or only in a linear fashion. The stages can be taken simultaneously, and previous stages can be returned to as necessary to come up with the best possible solutions.

The first phase of service design is to empathize with the end-user, which involves collecting data to understand what needs and problems they have. Using many different data collecting techniques allows a wide breadth of information to be captured and a deeper understanding of the customer and their problem to be developed.

The second phase is to determine what the key problem is. This phase is based on the data collected during the empathy-building phase and is crucial for the process. Defining the correct problem goes a long way toward delivering the best solution. The amount of data collected in the first phase is generally very large, so focusing on a key problem is a priority. Defining that problem in a human-centric way is also important for moving forward.

The next phase of service design is the idea-generating phase. Based on the key problem identified in the previous stage, teams can generate ideas for solutions to this problem. In this phase, the important thing is coming up with several ideas, either for new solutions to the problem or even a re-framing of the problem to see new possibilities. Having many ideas is important because it will lead to the best input for generating a prototype and testing it.

The last phase is the prototype and test phase, where the team selects the best ideas they came up with within the previous stage, builds a prototype and tests it. Will this idea solve the problem for the customer? This is where the rubber meets the road in service design.

The Benefits of Adopting A Service Design Process

There are several benefits to adopting a service design process for organizations. The first is that it is a process that focuses on empathy and gives priority to the end-user. Service design allows organizations to find better ways of solving problems based on empathy, which allows them to connect with and genuinely understand their customer. Products and services developed in this way accurately reflect the needs and challenges of their customers. Since service design is a human-centric process, it allows companies to understand how customers are affected by a problem and how to improve their experience.

Second, service design is a collaborative and multidisciplinary process that requires many different people with different skills to work together. This collaborative approach increases collective knowledge within an organization and helps employees break out of their niche. Solutions arising from a service design process are more adaptable and inclusive due to team members' varying skills and experience.

Third, adopting a service design process can lead to breakthroughs in solutions in a way that traditional problem-solving methods don’t. With an emphasis on testing and quick development of prototypes, service design allows researchers to quickly receive accurate feedback from real customers on whether the solution works for them. This is before a lot of time and money are spent on one solution.

Lastly, important problems are solved. Service design, at its core, is about finding better ways to do things.

Why It’s Important for Organizations to Adopt Service Design

Organizations need to adopt service design, in short, because they are more successful organizations. They have customers who are happier with their products and services, and they have more engaged employees. Organizations that employ service design have shorter innovation cycles due to the breadth of ideas and quick testing of prototypes that occur during the process. They also have higher revenues.

Using a customer-centric approach to problem solving benefits both the organization and the consumer, developing unique solutions to persistent problems.

Service Design
Design Thinking
Organizational Design
Human Centered Design