Service Design At Your Service

・8 min read
Service Design At Your Service

On 12th and 13th December we attended the first international conference on service design in Poland – the “Design at your service” event took place in Katowice. A number of engaging lectures and practical workshops run by Polish and foreign experts and practitioners provided the participants with an excellent opportunity to see how service design concepts, principles and tools can help both business enterprises and public institutions deliver more value to their customers, innovate their service and product (!) offerings and even fundamentally transform their organizations.

The conference was part of the Design Silesia project which was run by the Silesian Voivodeship in collaboration with such institutions as the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, Ars Cameralis Silesia Superioris, the Silesian University of Technology and Zamek Cieszyn. Some presentations delivered at the conference offered introductions for those who were trying to become familiar with the fundamentals of service design. More interestingly, some speakers chose to showcase very impressive stories about how designers, entrepreneurs, managers and the representatives of public institutions had actually managed to improve their offerings, operations and, last but not least, their financial results through the use of service design techniques and tools. Some workshops in turn enabled the participants to apply specific service design tools in practical exercises, e.g., on how to make the conference itself a better experience for all the stakeholders involved next year. In the sections that follow we present a highly subjective selection of topics which we found to be particularly useful and/or interesting. Buzzing design – an introduction to an emerging field by Birgit Mager. “Design oriented companies are 200% more successful in the stock market. Still only 6% of all service companies regard design as an integral part of their companies and invest in service design,” noted prof. Birgit Mager @BiSDN from the Köln International School of Design (KISD), a co-founder and the president of the Service Design Network as well as the chief editor of Touchpoint – a journal of service design. Her presentation contained an engaging introduction on the discipline peppered with some insightful comments on the various aspects of service design. For example, the professor advocated departing from the outdated and limiting product and technology-oriented paradigm and moving towards designing more comprehensive product and service systems. She emphasised the fact that much greater value could be provided if we realized that the latter emerges from a combination of both material (product) and non-material (service) components. The professor also shared some useful tips, which may very well help you adopt a more service-oriented perspective and benefit from the service design approach while working for your organization:

  • look at your service as a product, e.g., use a Business Model Canvas for your service,
  • focus on the customer benefit as perceived from without rather than from within your organization,
  • get into your customer’s shoes and create customer experiences through the eyes of the customer / user,
  • design specifically for customer experience,
  • see the big picture, i.e., the complete choreography of experience all over the process of interaction with the customer,
  • design and create perceivable service evidence, which “talks” about your immaterial service,
  • motivate the people involved in the service delivery so that they actually live your storyboard; importantly, it is your employees’ enthusiasm and attitude as well as the resulting relationships with your clients that may be hard for your competitors to copy!
  • create a living service, revisit your service design and redesign your service on an ongoing basis; develop a Service Research and Development function.

If you want to learn more from prof. Mager, watch this video with her speech on the future of service design, her presentation about service design at the SDN national conference in Paris or her TEDx talk in Koeln.

Service design is everywhere – redesigning the conference experience.

Barbara Große-Hering – a User Experience Lead, and Tommy Rae Jr – a Senior Strategist and Creative (Twitter) (both from Designit – a global strategic design firm) conducted a great service design workshop. The participants – working in groups – used a set of specific service design tools (such as Personas and Service Blueprints) to analyse the experiences of the different stakeholder groups of the conference, such as, for example, the participants, speakers, event organizers, property owners, etc. Based on the results of the analysis, they were further challenged to come up with specific ideas for improvements in the design of the conference. Some of the organizers were present and paying close attention to the suggestions presented ;-) So there is a chance all the people involved in the event next year will enjoy an even more rewarding experience. The tangible side of service design – insightful case studies. On top of the workshop, Tommy Rae Jnr presented an impressive case study about a substantial redesign of the sales process at Vestas – a global wind-energy company. The sales activities (incl. field trips) the company were involved with were very time-consuming and thus expensive; the sales cycle extended over months and sometimes significant effort was simply futile when deals were lost further down the process. The new sales process, which is heavily dependent on a suite of sleek mobile applications for smartphones and tablets, has turned out to be both more efficient and more effective, thus generating cost reductions and gains in revenues at the same time. The case study splendidly captures the application of digital experiences in the delivery of sales services.

With two other explanatory case studies Paul Thurston, the Head of Service Design from The National Centre for Product Design & Development Research in Cardiff, showed how engineering SMEs can deliver much more value – and grow successfully – by going beyond their traditional product-focused value propositions. The companies featured: Nuaire – a ventilation systems producer, and Hydro Industries – a provider of water and energy solutions, have both managed to integrate service design logic into their operations and enriched their offerings with service components. By way of example, Nuaire uses training for ventilation system fitters as an important part of its sales process and, in doing so, successfully converts the trainees into prospects, clients and brand advocates. The innovation not only helped to boost sales, it also significantly reduced the cost of after-sales warranty interventions as the the trained fitters do their job much better now. By abandoning a strictly product-focused approach the companies moved away from their competitors and/or created new market opportunities to exploit for growth. Today their R&D teams work hard not only on the physical products the companies manufacture but also on the services that accompany the products. So, if you happen to sell products, consider wrapping them up in some kind of service!

Service Design for better public sector services

Have you ever used the public e-services available at or Chile Atiende? Have you ever wondered how these types of services come into being? Maciej Bartosiewicz and his co-workers Katarzyna Banach and Jessica Kolarz – all three from the UX team at COI – are not only knowledgeable about the processes involved, but are also willing to help others learn more about them. During a discussion panel and presentation they generously shared their experiences on the design and implementation of e-services for the public sector. Their team are using User Centred Design concepts and methods for designing the “Car history” e-service based on CEPiK (an equivalent of DVLA in the UK). The key lesson to learn: put the target users of the service created at the very centre of the design process, interact with users for feedback on the design artifacts / service prototype developed, keep modifying your initial assumptions and you are likely to end up with a service that actually is user-friendly and delights rather than frustrates those it is meant for. In short, if you design for a user, you might be better off designing with them!


If you now feel that service design may offer some insights and help you improve your own organization, service or process, do not hesitate to explore the concepts, practices and tools it offers. I strongly recommend the book “This is Service Design Thinking: Basics, Tools, Cases” for the purpose. And who knows, we just might meet each other at a service design conference one day. PS I would like to express my gratitude to my colleague Dariusz Wylon for helping me edit the article above.

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