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Why Do We Need Service Design, The 5 Ps of Service Design

By Academy Xi

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Human-Centred Design continues to revolutionise the way services and products are designed and delivered. Businesses are expected to provide relevant and seamless experiences, a one-way monologue with the customer no longer resonates. Instead, businesses are encouraged to engage in conversation with their consumers to understand their needs and desires. This shift in user-centred thinking empowers businesses to deliver thoughtful, relevant, and useful experiences resulting in the growing demand for Service Designers.

What is Service Design?

Service Design was first introduced at the Köln International School of Design in 1991 as a process to help create and improve the delivery and the experience of a service.

The aim of Service Design is to consider the holistic experience of a user and ensure the experience is useful, usable, and desirable for customers as well as effective and profitable for organisations.

When we talk about Service Design, it’s hard to look past Apple — many of us can still recall Steve Jobs unveiling the first iPhone in 2007. But, besides revolutionising the mobile phone industry, the introduction of iTunes disrupted our everyday interactions, providing users with a seamless way to download and listen to new music. 

The service ecosystem

A service ecosystem maps the people, touchpoints, and connections with a focus on visualising the relationships and contexts of the broader service system. It is a method for identifying, understanding, and describing how key areas of the service, the 5Ps (people, product, place, process, and performance) interconnect.

To understand the end-to-end service ecosystem, some key considerations include:

  • What are all the touchpoints that players in the Service Experience see or use? This is also known as what is seen above the ‘Line of Visibility’.
  • How do customer tasks link to each touchpoint?
  • What influences a customer or end user’s actions?

The benefits of Service Design

The advantage of Service Design lies in its holistic process, that aims to design a seamless and effortless solution for customers. Service Designers understand that delivering a great service is not only dependent on the service itself, but on the experience of the people delivering that service. In this way, Service Designers ensure that the overall experience is consistent and easily understandable, with little to no friction for the customer between touchpoints.

The 5 Ps of Service Design

The discipline of Service Design considers the expectations and needs of its people, processes, places, products, and performances, to deliver exceptional services.

  • People: Service Design considers everyone’s experience including employees, customers, and partners.
  • Processes: The systems, policies, workflows, and operations within a service ecosystem affect parts of the user experience.  
  • Places: Service Designers consider physical and digital touchpoints and environments that can deliver an experience of a service.
  • Products: The tangible objects and collateral used to inform or deliver a service, such as signs and brochures can also affect a user’s experience.
  • Performance: Service Design is also considerate of intangible metrics that contribute to the quality of a service.

Service Design is a new and integrative field that creates fresh possibilities for businesses to reach their customers. Here are some examples of the brands that are leading the way in Service Design:

Examples of exceptional Service Design:

Airbnb: Before Airbnb, accommodation choices were limited. Airbnb was initially created for business travellers, but the platform was extended to travellers across 190 countries. Today, Airbnb specialises in providing personalised recommendations and experiences that match the customer’s desires and emotions.

Through a process of storyboarding the customer’s emotional moments, Airbnb began to understand the pain points of a traveller’s journey and made it a priority to create an experience that matches the customer’s desire. If you’ve booked accommodation through Airbnb, you’ll notice how seamless the interaction is from search listing, to messaging your host, through to landing at the airport and finding your accommodation, to returning home and leaving a review. Airbnb’s Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy, Chip Conley, says that the experience of staying in an Airbnb is at the core of the company’s customer strategy. But with options to browse a variety of art, food and nature-based activities, Airbnb also weaves its platform into a traveller’s itinerary and experience.

IKEA: Beyond providing simplistic, stylish, and affordable furniture, global Swedish furniture company IKEA is also known for their exceptional Service Design. From the layout to the store, to linking their website directly to the specific aisle and item number, consumers are able to promptly and easily identify items that they’re looking to purchase. 

In-store maps make it easy to identify exactly where you are, and large store bags assist consumers with purchases. More than buying a new table or bed frame, a person’s IKEA experience can’t look past the cafeteria, where shoppers are able to eat inexpensive meals and take a break from their shopping endeavours. From the first touchpoint, until someone leaves their store or gets an item delivered, IKEA has worked to co-design their customer experience to consider all of their users’ needs.

Starbucks: During the Global Financial Crisis, Starbucks saw a close of over 70% of its Australian stores. But Starbucks began resurfacing its physical footprint across the CBD and department stores in Australia – the land of many self-proclaimed coffee snobs. So what is it about Starbucks that had people coming back?

Some key design considerations that have kept customers coming back and established Starbucks as an international coffee hub include:

  • Friendly staff that cheer up customers making it less about purchasing a coffee, but spending time in a comfortable environment
  • Offering free wifi making it a prime location to work, have meetings, or connect with others
  • Informative and decorated menu boards that fit the entire concept of delivering unique coffee

How you can design an exceptional service experience?

Crafting exceptional service experiences isn’t just reserved for large companies such as the Airbnbs or Starbucks of the world.

Whether you’re working within a large organisation, small agency, or working on your own project, you can employ different tools to foster two-way communication and get to the heart of what your customers want.  

Find out how you can harness the Service Design power to deliver delightful, exceptional experiences through our range of courses here.