4 Things Anyone Can Do to Start Becoming a Service Designer

Team of creative professionals meeting in conference room

Learning how to design for service experiences requires a broad set of skills and a keenly developed eye for recognizing new opportunities for service innovations. This post will not cover the vast range of capabilities you will need to make and create into concepts that become real-world live service. However, a journey toward becoming a service designer can start right now without spending money or any design chops at all, In my experience, what I am about to tell you about tends to work best in a situation where you can sit down and just watch people experience a service. I use a sketchbook, but anything you can use to capture your observations is fine. A timer will also be necessary, but you can use a wrist watch as well. Try avoid only going to coffee shops. Libraries, post offices, food quarters are all easy to access in most parts of the country. Observing friends that you can talk with after their service experience is ideal, but beware, they will get annoyed if you do it too much. Ok, here we go.

1. Become a service observer

Many very talented designers and sharp business leaders miss the most critical aspect of service design; one must understand the realities faced by the people both delivering and receiving a service experience. I have found that many leaders make decisions on service experiences without watching any human beings live their service. Ok, maybe they watch one usability session. The value in observation is in building a sense of context for data, ground decisions in empathy, and avoiding the perils of over designing the service.

Here are some things to watch for:

  • What is the physical context? How does space or physical context shape the experience?

  • How does technology augment or disrupt the service?

  • Do the emotions displayed by the company and customer side feel genuine?

  • What is the core service? Look for the most critically valuable aspect of the service.

  • What is either helping or hurting the reliability of the service moments you are observing?

2. Measure a service experience each day

So many critical aspects of designing for service experiences rely on objective performance measurements. These are Key Performance Indicators(KPI). When investing resources into a service innovation, the measurable performance can go a long way to informing decisions.

  • How long does it take to start and complete the service? Watch 5 to 10 people go through the experience to get a good average.

  • Where is time being wasted?

  • If you observe the same service several days in a row, how many regulars do you see?

  • How many service encounters happen between a breakdown in the service? A service failure might be a point of sale malfunction or someone getting the wrong order.

3. Mind the gaps

Services are not dissimilar from people. We do not act the same in front of our parents as we might when we are out with our friends. Services are no different. As the context of a service encounter changes it can cause a service’s personality to feel schizophrenic. When designing for service experiences, it is our job to create ways for the service to remain consistent.

  • Does the experience you are observing feel like it has come from the same brand as online, app, and email?

  • How does the service’s personality change across the moments of an experience?

  • How seamlessly can a person go from digital to in-person when needed?

  • Do the voice and tone change when a service has to recover from a failure?

4. Tell stories about the services you encounter

The ability to tell a story might be the most important of these four capabilities. Regardless of how well you can draw, write, or present, stories are at the heart of designing for service experiences.

  • Document the sequence of service delivery with stick figures.

  • No matter how simplistic, tell someone what you saw. Set the stage by describing the where and when.

  • Talk about who was involved.

  • What steps were taking to reach the moment where the people involved met one another.

  • What value did they exchange?

  • How did it end?

  • What could be done differently to make the service better next time?

As I mentioned at the outset, there so many critical capabilities needed to design service experiences professionally, but practicing these activities will get you off to a quick start by focusing on the fundamentals of a service system.

Richard EkelmanComment