According to a survey by Bain & Company, done already in 2005, 80% of companies believed that they delivered their customers excellent value and a superior service experience. Only 8% of their customers agreed. Over a decade later, the gap between these views has stayed the same in many organisations.

There is pressure especially towards internal services in organisations. While the consumer market offers continuously developing and increasingly user-friendly services, the users still face inconvenient systems, complicated processes and incomprehensible communication in their work organisations.

How do you bring services to the level the customers expect? Digitalisation requires a new approach to services. A world view that is based on the product or service itself can no longer keep up with the changing needs of customers and business. Instead, services must be seen as a whole, from the viewpoints of business objectives, users, and delivery. The user experience has become a prominent battlefield of competitiveness, differentiation and growth. At the same time, services must be profitable and efficiently produced.

Service design offers a new way of creating and improving services. What lie at the core of service design are an understanding of the user, an engaging way of developing the customer journey and processes, and agile experimentation. Essentially, service design is customer-centred business development. That is why we should – and must – engage in service design.


1. Service design breaks down false conceptions of customers

A typical story of the significance of user understanding could go like this: A new service is designed and released by a company. Soon after the release, it becomes clear that the service is not used as much as the company hoped. Based on feedback, the service is made more user-friendly. Still it is not used. The problem? The service is not even remotely meeting the needs of customers, i.e. users. The development team has failed to properly understand the everyday life of the user and the problems that the service is intended to solve.

Too many organisations operate based on outdated customer conceptions or pure assumptions. If the users are the last item on the priority list, an organisation can hardly ever achieve the business benefits that it strives for with its services. The responsibility for using the services (the right way) does not lie with the user, not even when the user is an employee using an organisation’s internal services.

Service design starts with understanding people and their needs. Examining the user helps us to see the reality of the customer and eliminate false, even delusional, views.


2. Service design breaks down organisational silos

If in the current situation, marketing department answers for the service sales, data administration and suppliers answer for the background systems for registering, and business functions answer for the service itself, the responsibility for the service as a whole often falls in no-man’s land. This often manifests itself to the user as frustrating and ineffective chaos.

Service design methods bring the user experience and service integration to the centre of design and therefore shift the attention from local optimisation to comprehensive examination. When various departments are engaged in the development work and the customer journey is made more concrete, genuine understanding and commitment emerge. A service design professional helps to question the predominant assumptions, prioritise functionalities, break down overlaps, and simplify the service.


  3. Service design finds the balance between different requirements

Digitalisation makes services available to the user in an entirely new way. Through various self-service channels, the users can be offered clear and automated service packages. Utilising automation and self-service, however, requires methodical design in order to balance the value gained from the services against the time and energy required from the user.

In order to deliver a service effectively, it is necessary to determine which factors in the service are critical for the user, and when it is best to focus on smooth and cost-effective background processes. Service design steers the users’ actions in a direction where profitable service production is possible.

Service design systematically looks for a healthy balance between the different requirements. This maximises the user’s service experience in a way that is also profitable to business.


Survey source: Bain & Company, 2005, Closing the delivery gap, By James Allen, Frederick F. Reichheld, Barney Hamilton and Rob Markey

Author: Karoliina Liimatainen

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