Notebook with sticky notes and a pen. One note says: Design a feedback form.

5 Principles of service design to make your CX project a success (oops, actually it’s 6!)

April 5, 2022

We all know about the power of customer experience. When it comes to improving the experience of a service or product, basing the innovation project on service design principles may be fundamental to achieving your goals consistently.

A study run by Walker found that customer experience could beat price and product as the primary selling point, which resonates with increased awareness around this topic. In a survey conducted by SuperOffice involving 1,920 business professionals, almost 46% named customer experience as their business priority number 1.

However, the struggles are also real! For any type of professional working within service design, the mastery to come up with the best solutions in an actionable and fruitful manner is often challenging. Thus, strong roots in the system of ideas behind service design are critical in order to perform at this task.

To support you in your effort to deliver a consistent service design project that positively influences your organization or client’s company, we recommend you check out the essential theories to promote user or customer innovation in an applicable and effective way.

Let’s get started!

What is meant by service design?

It doesn’t matter if you want to call it design thinking, experience design, UX, or any other name. Regardless of the label, service design is an approach to create delightful experiences for people, be they customers, users, employees, citizens or any combination of these. Design thinking brings a creative, human-centered perspective into the process of designing services.

Have a look at some service design definitions to get inspired.

Service design is all about making the service you deliver useful, usable, efficient, effective and desirable

UK Design Council

When you have two coffee shops right next to each other, selling the exact same coffee at the exact same price, service design is what makes you walk into one and not the other, come back often and tell your friends about it.

31 Volts

Ensuring that your project follows the core theories of service design can help you to avoid common pitfalls when innovating or even creating a service/product from scratch. It can help you move as smoothly as possible towards your project’s goals.

Principles of Service Design

Although controversial, you probably have seen a wide range of principles, incredibly catchy articles mentioning top 5 and even top 10 lists. We corroborate with the best-seller book “This is Service Design Doing”, which points out six service design principles.  

They are critical points that all service designers should be aware of to prevent issues and, therefore, succeed in their projects. These six principles of service designs are:

  1. Human-centered: Consider the experience of all the people 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. Tangible and sustainable: a project needs to include fundamental research, co-creation and prototyping to evidence actual business value.
  6. Holistic: Services are grounded through stakeholders with different backgrounds and perspectives, that ultimately meet their needs.

1 – Human-centered

Service design is highly focused on providing solutions to human needs, and this approach requires stepping into the customers’ shoes, understanding their pains and progressing with empathy towards what they want.

Initially, comprehend the experience and desires from the customer perspective, dive into their interactions with a product or service. Then it is time to go through the process of enhancing or creating a product or service that integrates effortlessly with your target audience.

Your customers are the center of the research, part of the creating step, and might be included during prototyping.

2 – Collaborative

If service design were part of the Olympic Games, for sure, it would be a team sport. Many players orchestrate what solution the user needs, not just a  single player.

The service design approach is inherently interdisciplinary and collaborative, which implies co-innovation and critical thinking among different team members, breaking silos and unilateral perspectives in an organization.

The method often involves different stakeholders with multiple backgrounds, users and experts.

Moreover, as an ultimate goal, great service designers condense the process into an easy integrative solution in our daily lives without complicated extra work or time-consuming activities.

3 – Iterative

Service design can be seen as a common language offering a shared, approachable, and neutral set of terms and activities for cross-disciplinary cooperation.

In fact, the very first step of any service design process should be to design the process itself. Every agency and organization uses a different process with varying labels that involves exploratory, adaptive, and experimental approaches.

The iterative process of service design consists of four key insights: exploration, creation, reflection and implementation, while the design process includes four key activities: research, ideation, prototyping, and implementation.

visualization of service design as an iterative process: exploration, creation, reflection, implementation.

4 – Sequential

An iterative process doesn't mean that you shouldn’t sequence the project's timeline.

The fact that service design breaks a journey down into particular touchpoints and explicits its interactions may contribute to sequencing the three-basic stages of your customer journey.

These steps take place before the customer makes contact with your product/service, as well as in the moment that consumers experience your product/service, and in the period after these interactions.

A customer journey experience should represent the sequence of correlated actions.

5 – Tangible and sustainable

As a human-centered approach, service design goes deeply into a service solution to people’s pain, and a feasible long-term run may be considered. However, this equation gets more complex, mixing elements of design thinking and business models in order to rethink time and cost from both sides: customers and companies.

The way an organization invests in service design, such as acquiring knowledge from the human-centric perspective through experiments, will allow learning over time by doing rather than just remaining in the field of ideas and assumptions.

Service design demands research, co-creation, and testing. And to do so, a business sets up the tone of the strategy that permits an increase in business efficiency and allows them to thrive in a sustainable manner.

6 – Holistic

As a common language throughout the industry, service design is also interdisciplinary and relies on stakeholders with different backgrounds in order to build a common ground.

Due to its human-centricity, this approach puts the user at the center of the service delivery model and addresses the whole journey.

Thanks to the holistic perspective, the focus is on complex problems (often with multiple layers) through multiple prisms, instead of bits and pieces of customer journeys, being an essential principle for human-centered design.

Learn more about service design!