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What are service design tools? (Guide part 3)

May 19, 2021

When talking about service design tools, many people think of a customer journey map hanging on a wall and people pointing at sticky notes. In this article, we dive into the subject of service design tools and templates, what they are, and how they can be implemented during the different phases of a design process.

In this article we cover the following topics:

  1. Tools vs. methods
  2. Tools and methods for research
  3. Tools and methods for ideation
  4. Tools and methods for prototyping
  5. Tools and methods for implementation
  6. Digital service design tools

Service design tools vs. service design methods

Talk about tools seems to dominate many people’s focus when they consider service design. Given how much attention they receive, it's tempting to imagine service design reduced to a sort of toolbox, filled with fairly lightweight and approachable tools adopted from branding, marketing, UX, and elsewhere.

This is not the whole story by any means - without a process, mindset, and even common language, those tools lose much of their impact and may even make no sense. Used well, however, service design tools can spark meaningful conversations, create connections between stakeholders, test assumptions in our customer understanding, and stimulate the development of a common language for service development.

There exists a wide variety of tools and methods at different stages of service design and development, from exploring the world of our customers, to reflecting on our customer data, and finally implementing our service design improvements.

We differentiate between tools for service design and methods:

Tools such as customer journey maps are concrete models that follow a specific structure or are built on a given template.

Methods such as contextual interviews, on the other hand, are procedures to approach or accomplish something. Let us clarify with some more practical examples. In the following we will present you some tools and methods for each of the components of a service design process.

Service design tools and methods for research

If we are conducting user research and developing our understanding of our customers, we might use methods such as contextual interviews, participant observation, and forms of mobile ethnography.

Click here to read more about the basics of customer experience research.

In a second step, we can then visualize the collected data with different tools like personas, journey maps and system maps.

Service design tools and methods for ideation

After we have developed an understanding of our customers, we are able to craft our insights into new ideas and concepts. Many methods during ideation focus on fostering collaboration between diverse stakeholder groups, such as co-creative workshop formats.

Specific tools that are commonly used during this phase can include what-if statements, storyboards and design scenarios.

Service design tools and methods for prototyping

During prototyping, we strive to test our ideas and challenge their underlying assumptions.

Prototyping is the research of the future.

The applied methods vary from desktop walkthroughs or wireframes to physical cardboard prototypes or theatrical approaches.

Tools for the prototyping process often include ways to visualize experiences, such as future-state journey maps.

Service design tools and methods for implementation

Methods used during implementation make it easier to transfer and embed service delivery improvements within organizations. This is where ideas are put into action, how we gather support for change, as well as implement it.

Tools that assist in implementation are service blueprints, communication prototypes and customer lifecycle maps.

Having a broad toolkit and being able to apply relevant methods and tools at the right moment can greatly assist us in overcoming the challenges we face during service design.

These are methods and tools that help us understand our customers better, understand and manage our data or help us to prototype innovative service delivery methods.

Digital service design tools

In addition to the above mentioned physical tools, it is also valuable to explore the potential of new technologies for enhancing our service design efforts. Digital tools can augment our existing toolset and enable us to adopt service design within our organizations.

Here are just some benefits of working with digital service design tools:

  • Easily modifiable frameworks and templates
  • Integration with other software
  • Export options for visual presentations
  • Greater levels of digital collaboration
  • Systematic and organized methods of data storage

At Smaply, we believe that great software can be an enabler for building the capacity to practice service design. For a list of our favorite service design tools, check out this article about digital tools for service design.

Link to the next part of the guide – service design implementation