Service Design Thinking: It’s About Customer Experience


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As digital marketers, when we introduce ourselves to potential clients, we are continuously reflecting on how we describe the work we do and what sets us apart. How do we them understand what we mean by service design thinking and what that means for their organization in the experience economy and digital era are some things we have to consider.

Most organizations spend significant time designing tangible products, but services hardly receive any attention. But, in today’s marketplace, to succeed this needs to change, as generally services are less productive and cause more irritation and frustration to customers than products. So the heart of service design thinking is to improve and innovate the services customers use across different touchpoints and make a positive impact on them and the employee experience necessary for delivering it. The intent is to create a new value that previously did not exist.

To understand the scope, reach, and scale of service design thinking, would be like setting out for a fishing expedition. You are in the middle of a lake, where you have docked and ready to cast the net and catch fish.

Ok so…The scale is how BIG your net is i.e. the ecosystem of service experience across different touchpoints for each product line. A big net is good because the chances of catching a big fish or many small fishes are high.

So a big net in service design is shaping the customer journey to provide seamless, positive experience across different channels and make them coming back for more. Projects like these usually start with telling stories and understanding the current and future state of customer and employee experience to get greater insights and identify opportunities. It answers questions like, which capabilities are needed to build a customer-centric organization and prevent costly service failures, does each interaction live up to the experience your brand is trying to create or what are the organization challenges involved in realizing interventions across multiple channels, among others.

By viewing the bigger picture – the one that comprises of all aspects of the journey experience: before, beginning, during and after; and figuring a way to make it come to life within the organization.

The Scope is WHERE you are throwing the net i.e. a particular service experience problem. It’s a lake, and you don’t have gadgets to see where the most fish are. You may do a trial by tossing the net, in one area or go by what you have heard from others or your insights based on previous exploits.

For example, users are downloading the mobile app; quite a few uninstall immediately, and the rest are not fully utilizing all the features. The scope could be to view the end-to-end service experience for the app (things spanning from awareness to evaluation, download/purchase, use, renewal and refer).

The scope is listening carefully to figure out what the customer wants to achieve, are we providing and how is it impacting conversions. It’s about understanding your users, knowing where they are, what to they want and knowing how to talk to them.

If you have a good scope, it helps us decode the wicked problem in hand, and increase chances of success, as you are not blindly shooting at everything.

The Reach is how FAR you can or want to throw the net i.e. a particular touchpoint within a service or the big-bang digital transformation. Though you have a big net and a good area of fish, you only have an hour to fish, or you have run out of fodder to attract the fish, or you realize there is a hole in the bigger net. It does you no good standing in the middle of the lake if you cannot cast the net.

Examples would be re-design the website to personalize based on user behavior, real-time rerouting of customer complaints or feedback, improving the conversation between customer and front-line (call center, sales, website, app) or conducting an online reputation management program and so on.

To get reach, you need to have the execution capability and a workforce aligned to deliver the exceptional service. You can always start small, see the impact of quick wins and then scale-up.


When it comes to service design, the assumption is that answers to most of the wicked problems are available. It is a matter of finding and evaluating different solutions, eliminate waste with overlapping channels providing the same service and then selecting the right one for the problem in a particular market. Another fundamental starting point is empathy with people (customers and employee) experiences.

So it actively involves customers, employees, and stakeholders in the creative aspects of developing service to deal with consistent and seamless experience across channels around the intersection of people, environment, process, policy, procedures, practice and systems, within a dynamic and complex system. The front stage view encompasses all this your business does that customers can see, hear, feel and touch. The backstage view comprises of things a business does but is invisible to the customer, but critical to enable the experience.When it comes to touchpoints, you need to consider the two-way digital, human, physical and sensory interactions with your organization.

The key is to design the front stage and back stage from the outside in, to reduce complexity, uncover opportunities and simplify the organization. Quite often this is a case for a cultural change initiative and change in thinking mindset to shape experiences for solid business outcomes.

As we grow our practice as digital marketers, we need to reflect, explore and co-create what service design means an organization’s customer experience and try to bring more life in it.

The article was first posted in cxotoday

Vidya Priya Rao
Vidya Priya Rao (PhD), is the Founder and Director of Innovatus Marketers Touchpoint LLP, a customer experience, design thinking and marketing consulting firm based in Mumbai, India. She is a design thinking/service design thinking decoder and promotes a proven approach to build a design-led innovation culture. She is also a visiting faculty at leading B-Schools in India. She is an Executive, Marketing & Sales Coach, Trainer, and Keynote Speaker.


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