As the practice of Service Design grows, many more individuals profess to be service designers. Their credentials are based on having matriculated at one of the few institutions that offer degrees, or having practiced service design, or service design thinking, at one of the service design consultancies.

Major management consulting firms have stepped up building or acquiring service design businesses. The acquisitions began in response to global clients who were more familiar with Service Design. But as with marketing, social media, and other fields too, Service Design requires fidelity to the models and tools, not to an individual or an outside team.  Service Design models and tools are still in stages of maturity, and available for anyone to adopt and mold for solving their own, unique challenges.

Service Design Techniques

Service Design techniques are intended to realize quality services, ones that reliably and repeatedly create unique, individual, positive experiences—anywhere, anytime.  Quality services help organizations achieve added sources of revenue, renewed vigor and enthusiasm for mission and purpose, loyal stakeholders, and improved staff collaboration.

Quality services are also replicable and scalable, and importantly, furthers the purpose of an organization.  This necessarily includes an equitable distribution of resources to achieve the goal, combined with efficiencies made possible through technology. Dutch-based service designer Geke van Dijk, argues that iTunes is among the most brilliant of Service Design manifestations.  The service is reliable, she said, and can be used in succession, in multiples, in different locations, singularly or by many.  “In real time, millions of users globally can have immediate access to experiences, each with the same objective, and every one of them realizing a different satisfying experience, simultaneously.”

The interest in Service Design is exploding as financial analysts recommend executives look for long-term growth, an industry trend.  Boardrooms are seeking performance over time, versus short-term gains that cause disruption and risk. Service Design techniques are ideal for fostering this kind of sustainability through focused stakeholder engagement, a means to greater revenue.

The methods, tools and models are wholly accessible, intended for groups working together to accomplish these and other purposes. Apart from other non-aesthetic design disciplines, the concepts of Service Design revolve around ensuring stakeholders (or members) remain the focus of a mission, program, service or offering.

It is not uncommon, for instance, for an organization to invest in a service that mirrors others similar in their industry, with hopes they too will reap the same rewards.  Yet while services appear identical, failure of one is more often due to the negligence of satisfactorily meeting specific user needs.  This scenario is near unfathomable using techniques of Service Design.


Service Design is not to be confused with customer service. The practice is much more about planning, testing, implementing and monitoring services to fulfill users’ needs. To that end, many services are entirely automated or moving in that direction—in keeping user expectations. So, face-to-face interactions are becoming increasingly rare, and irrelevant with respect to customer service.

Along these lines, Service Design techniques leverage technology to achieve quality user experiences.  This can only occur when technology and process operate in tandem, seamlessly and without distractions to the user.  When operating as intended, the service should guide users to fulfill a pre-designed outcome.  Some describe the field as the ways and means to favorable user experiences.

If you’re ready to clear the obstacles that are keeping your organization from meeting your users needs, welcome.

Nothing is impossible with the right tools and with the support you need. We’re going to be sharing everything we possibly can to help you understand how cultivating a stronger, fully-engaged audience made up of users who are interested in your service while improving your service system can and will be possible.

Those who are not using the power of Service Design to grow build revenue, engage desired audiences and promote your organization’s mission values and goals are simply missing out on valuable leadership skills. Company and organization executives from Apple, Amazon, Toyota, VRBO, Google, Marriott, Rodan and Fields, Capital One and others in public, private and non-profit sectors rely on Service Design to come out on top in their industry segments.

Service Design’s methods, models and tools solve some of the most pressing challenges:

  • Improve revenue
  • Empower seasoned-to-aspiring executives
  • Boost stakeholder engagement
  • Achieve greater team collaboration
  • Reach and satisfy new and existing markets including millennials
  • Revitalize mission and purpose
  • Provide clarity to a mission and vision, and,
  • Build and improve successful services (Lines of Business)

Face it, all companies and organizations go through periods of uncertainty where they have a goal to achieve and are not sure how to make it happen. Their leaders seek new tools to solve emerging challenges, new thinking. Some leaders have risen only to find they are even more distant from the “real world.”  And, many more who aspire to leadership desire the secret-sauce to advance.

If you can relate, you will want to be aware of the emerging practice of Service Design.  It has been popular for years in Europe, taking Asia by storm, and adopted by leading global organizations based in the States, but with far less fanfare. That’s about to change.

Tune in: We created a whole podcast on Service Design and how to create programs and services that are relevant to your audience, along with adapting your marketing strategy to match what your community members are looking for. Listen now…

Want to give your business a boost? Here are 35 ways you can improve your services. Click To Tweet

1. List the services your organization provides.

Your business or organization exists to achieve a mission; your programs and services will serve just a part. Are the unmet needs of consumers, members or donor? Have there been ideas put forth that have not been addressed? Overall, what’s working and not between the organization and stakeholders?

2. Discover whether your organization has a Service Concept and if so, what it is. If not, work with colleagues to propose one.  The programs and services should align with the Service Concept.

A Service Concept highlights the organization’s mission and passion. The Service Concept is also valuable for deciding quickly whether the organization should adopt an idea before investing, particularly new programs and services.  Additionally, the Service Concept helps organizations serves to determine to keep a program and service operational. A Service Concept is different from building a mission statement and brand awareness. The organization’s brand will support the Service Concept.

3. Work to develop personas.

Does the organization have existing persons to update? If not, begin to identify market segments that can be shaped into valid personas. Developing personas helps to see who you’re trying to reach with your service and how your service matches your users’ needs. As you create personas, you’ll find that this process helps get everyone talking to each other. It can help break down silos and show gaps in communications to users, along with what is needed to fill the gap in terms of your messaging.

4. Populate your personas using available data (separate personas for each market segment served).

Imagine the experience from a consumer, member or donor’s perspective. Who is that individual? What does he or she look like? Find a photo on the Internet that best represents this person. Next, identify major obstacles, concerns, and challenges preventing the persona from attaching themselves more closely to the business or organization and its services.

5. Research demographics for your personas.

This type of research can include ages, geographic locations,  income, interests, along with any other similarities that can be used for grouping individuals into a persona.

6. Create filters for personas to define who best fits.

Determine who fits and does not fit into each persona by using filters. The point of your filters is to determine whether messaging used for the specific persona would appeal to the person. Filters can help you gain more interest as to whether a person fits into the persona you’ve developed.

7. Align programs and segments to personas (market segments served).

Build the personas out by categorizing those who attend and participate in the business or organization’s programs and services. Seek to validate your assumptions.

8. Survey users of programs and services.

Using a survey, you can find out if your assumed personas are using the programs and services, how they are using the services, what they would change, and if they would recommend the program or service to others.

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9. Assemble survey results

You can sort these results by those who would recommend the program or service to others and by the market segments (personas).  Info gathered on “how they are using the service” and what they would change or improve should be forwarded to the program manager(s).

10. Identify those who recommend the program or service to others.

Through your survey results, you can find out who would recommend your service to others. Once you have this information, it’s possible to empower them to become ambassadors for your business or organization. These people will be your loyalists and can provide testimonials and recommendations.

11. Record Data in Database Management Systems.

By keeping a record of data, you’re able to evaluate the information you collect and use it for segmentation, analyzing trends, and finding potential areas for improvement. Just make sure that you ensure your data can be migrated to other databases in the future.

12. Consider whether there are there particular services or programs that uniquely fill the needs of this persona.

This is a great time to involve a monthly focus group in brainstorming! It’s also a great time to turn to your data. If you’ve been split-testing to collect data on your persona’s preferences or trying out a variety of messaging styles, you can find out what your personas are responding to and interested in. Collecting survey information and feedback also provides more insight.

13. Create events to test personas.

The event must match the interests or commonalities of a persona, then determine actions and reactions from your persona-type. The results from the tests help you glean more information about your persona and also validate whether your best meeting your users’ needs.

14. Devise a Demand Model.

A Demand Model shows a marketing approach to building four stages of awareness-to-demand for the purpose of adding more users to new or existing programs and services. Demand models are ideal for progressing a complicated message or communicating multiple messages over time to achieve the desired result.

15. Begin plotting out communications to be seen by intended persona(s).

Establish communications workflow plus measures to gauge responses from activities. Activities to include: Testimonies (video), blog posts, emails, advertising, articles in publications that reach the intended target audience, articles in newsletters (online), split-tests (with a primary call-to-action)

16. Reverse engineer the intended outcome.

Consider what your end date would be for the desired result. Work backward. Set milestones and key dates to arrive at end date.  This helps a plan stay on track. The dates can always move for unexpected circumstances. Before moving on: review the plan with others ensuring it makes sense and is feasible through resources and timing.

17. Complete a JourneyMap.

Create a JourneyMap, one per target persona-following users along the path to a service or program discovery to the achievement of an experience. The JourneyMap will lead to ways of improving programs and services – and will identify possible problems and challenges in the way of completing a program or service or preventing the occurrence a favorable experience.

18. Plot a Service Blueprint from JourneyMap.

Service Blueprints are used to storyboard a service, visualize how the program or service looks and feels to users.  Also, it shows how an organization’s functions come together to create user experiences. The blueprint depicts how a service unfolds between a front stage and backstage. The front stage refers to user interactions. The backstage is a wire-diagram showing how back-office support—membership, sales, marketing, finance, accounting, must operate in smooth handoffs to realize a user experience.

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19. With a completed blueprint, look for opportunities to automate routine activities and fix any glitches.

Routine activities can be automated to improve efficiency, particularly processes that don’t require a human interface or will not impact the user experience. The backstage is typically where there are glitches that need fixing for the service to unfold smoothly.  While all the service design tools are based on visualization so others can follow along and join in at any point, the Blueprint is unique in that it requires minimal if any outside resources to develop and validate.

20. Using the Blueprint, identify any obstacles users might face with the program or service.

Isolate the suspected problem and try to improve performance. If there is an issue, you can use the Blueprint to troubleshoot where the root cause may be found. A blueprint also allows for experimenting when it comes to seeing how your market segments will experience the program or service.

21. Create a touchpoint plan per program or service.

A touchpoint plan is a map exposing the intersections where users and a service interact. Touchpoints should be identified within the blueprint framework. Touchpoints are intentional messages to users. For instance, they can be used either when there might be the reluctance to move forward or to seek feedback from users at critical junctures for ensuring the successful service completion.

22. Touchpoints should be carefully planned for communications. 

Touchpoints should be thought of as “listening opportunities” where simple surveys or split tests are introduced to understand users’ mindsets at any juncture.  Include ways of gathering usage metrics, such as how far users go before dropping off.

23. Use Touchpoints to develop robust analytics.

Consider revising user paths along a service with Touchpoint input, particularly helpful when using automation. Seek understanding of a user experience and gauge the impact of those experiences. Can you find out any of the following:

  • Motivation
  • Expectations
  • Preconceptions
  • Satisfaction

24. Consider other programs and services that your business or organization offers that could be ripe for Touchpoints.

Opportunities may be found through the website homepage, events, giveaways, and user interfaces, like kiosks. Are there user interfaces that are possibly causing confusion, or at worse creating negativity, which need adjustments? Are stakeholders confronted with too many choices in your organization’s offerings or options? Keep in mind that users tend to shut down and walk away when presented with more than three options.

25. Review failing services and ones that are not meeting expectations.

You can use a Program Assessment Model, a variation of a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.) The Program Assessment Model separates programs into governance, management and operations. The model is valuable for improvements, future planning, but also for identifying additional sources of revenue – unrealized opportunities.

26. For identifying other reasons that programs don’t measure up, look to a Growth-Share Matrix.

The model is common in business management for recognizing the lifecycle of programs and services. The model is used by executives to determine whether to keep programs and services operating – based on a number of qualifiers.

27. Identify areas of risk for the business or organization in which a failure of a product and service has a large rippled effect.

The objective is to find those risks and mitigate them. This measure is a notion of crises avoidance. Isolating potential issues that could harm the organization and figuring out ways to contain the risk.

28. Identify aspects of each service for its quality, ensuring growth and sustainment

A quality Service will survive addressing user needs, evolve reliably for the user, and rely on a Service System (the essence of a total Blueprint of the enterprise), and, a Service Operation. Uber is an ideal example of a service system and service operation working in tandem. A Service Operation is how the service evolves between users and providers (organizations) who together share – or mutually govern – the experience outcome. Additionally, a quality service will consistently achieve positive experience outcomes and is able to scale with minimal additional resources.

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29. Ensure a proper trade-off between costs and benefits of a program or service.

Service outcomes – in search of positive outcomes – are measured using ServQUAL or ServPERF models for detecting user satisfaction. This is to make sure that services and programs meet the business or organization’s needs, as well as solving an unmet need of users.  It’s important to check programs and services for proper standards and processes.

30. Determine whether internal communications are satisfactory for handling one-off challenges that may arise.

Service Design is more than what you see from the user perspective. It’s also how the service is handled behind the scenes. To design services successfully, it’s critical to make sure that your departments function well with each other and work collaboratively. This way, when challenges arise, communication and problem-solving flow smoothly.

31. Review user communications to prevent over-promising and under-delivering.

Double-check your messaging to make sure your communication lines up with what your service offers. Are your users clear on what they’re receiving? Making sure you’re clear about the expectations will improve customer satisfaction.

32. Rinse and repeat. 

Each time you evaluate your services, consider how you can update your personas and your JourneyMaps. For JourneyMaps, personas help when it comes to improving the service.  One group might find a more satisfying experience with green, another with red. So the designer has to figure out how ways to satisfy the different segments. Keep going!

33. Continue to evaluate potential improvements.

Stay open to finding improvements that will help your lines of business. The user will guide how your service needs to be improved and it’s your role to pay attention. You’ll be able to make some major connections while you tie together different parts of your programs and services. These Service Design tools, methods and models will help you create systems that work better.

34. Take a deep breath.

There’s a lot of info about to come your way, so take a deep breath and get ready. We’ll be asking you to do some work in order to get into the right mindset and look deep within your organization and your roles. It’s no easy task, so the first things to do is to prepare yourself. You can connect the dots. You can find the missing links. You can make your work even more meaningful. And, you can do this through proper planning and adjustments.

35. Think about what you’d add to this list.

Did we miss anything? Share with us if we’re missing anything in the comments below.

If what we covered today resonates with you and if the idea of having support interests you because you know it would be a game-changer for both you and your company, we encourage you to enroll in The Service Design Apprentice course to get started.

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