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November 30, 2021

With Service and UX design, you determine how customers perceive your company

So, what is the difference between Service Design(SD) and User Experience Design (UX)?

It’s not uncommon to blur the lines between Service Design (SD) and User Experience Design (UX). Both disciplines naturally overlap since each exists to optimize customer experiences, enhance conversions, and impart value that can help to improve lives.  
Of the three disciplines, Service Design is holistic. It views the complete system and seeks to align all interactions across all channels and exchange touchpoints from the perspective of the end-user and the service provider. Service designers will consider organizational infrastructure, operational models, design thinking methods, the planning and organizing of human resources, and of course, the “journey” that a customer or end-user will take to acquire a product or service.
Each discipline employs a human-centred approach to understand what users want from an organization’s products or services. UX designers use many of the same analytic tools that service designers rely on to understand end-user needs and behaviours. When UX designers build websites, they use these tools in the planning and design cycle phases to construct barrier-free web interfaces that align with user needs and can ultimately deliver online conversions and sales.

Here are some common Service Design and UX tools

  • Customer/User Research (field studies, user testing)
  • User Surveys (often qualitative asking open-ended questions, i.e., seeks comments, feedback, suggestions)
  • User Stories (lean UX mapping for agile teams, uses sticky notes and sketches to outline anticipated user actions to complete goals)
  • Journey Maps (provides a narrative of what users experience when they interact with your products or services – illustrates pain points and what delights them)
  • Service Blueprinting (a collaborative spreadsheet and essential service design tool to visualize the relationship between different service processes and parts as they relate to touchpoints in a customer journey. Used to identify and adjust the processes that are essential to providing a positive experience in the exchange of a product or service) 
  • Customer Personas (the fictional descriptions of end-users, to understand needs, concerns, and goals. Gives designers a concrete and specific personality model of the user(s) that they are designed for)  
  • Empathy Maps (constructed when starting a design project to articulate end-user characteristics, i.e., what users/customers are saying, thinking, doing and feeling. Serves to qualify user needs and aid in UX decision making)  

No matter what tools and activities are used to gather user data, with each discipline the designer will approach the design of a service, product or website from the perspective of the end-user.  

Differences between the two disciplines 

The Focus:

The design and development of a single customer touchpoint. Including a call to action and conversion points. The design and implementation of all touchpoints across all channels and the entire customer journey. Also, the behind-the-scenes activities enable those experiences to be delivered as intended.

The Aim:

To make the specific touchpoint easier and more enjoyable to use. To holistically improve service quality and the interaction between the brand, its employees and customers.

Key Components:

Usability, information architecture, navigation, comprehension, learnability, visual hierarchy. Customer Experience (CX) operational model design, planning/organizing people, design thinking methodologies, infrastructure.

Credit: Bright Labs

Why consider Service Design for your Organization? Here are six good reasons:

  1. Your competitors. With many commodified products and similar services on offer, the only way to successfully stand out is to provide remarkable and consistent services that delight customers across all consumer touchpoints. With service design, all an organization’s moving parts can be tuned to that state.
  2. Your brand. Business success or failure is largely a function of how your customers perceive your brand, and this is largely based on their interactions with your company and products. Service design can inform a brand relationship by facilitating a dialogue between the provider and consumer. Their experience, positive or negative will either engender loyalty, referrals, and repeat business, or conversely, disinterest and poor reviews. With service design, you determine how customers perceive your company.
  3. Your people. The NN/g Nielsen Norman Group defines service design as “the activity of planning and organizing a business’s resources (people, props, and processes) in order to (1) directly improve the employee's experience, and (2) indirectly, the customer’s experience.”  It’s a mistake to think only of your external customers, your employees' are internal customers who also benefit from a service design culture. Service design promotes closer cooperation between departments, adds efficiencies and consistency during customer-facing interactions. Having everyone moving in the same direction with a clear and common goal equates to increased employee satisfaction.
  4. Your customers. Service Design realigns an organization’s focus from promoting product consumption to delivering connected experiences tailored to meet customer needs.  Service design will make the moments in the lives of those engaging with your organization’s products or services stressless and enjoyable. Making customer touchpoints consistent, efficient and intuitive can delight your customers and makes it possible to have repeatable and mutually beneficial customer relations.
  5. Your website conversions. “User-centric or customer-centric” are terms that are frequently used in the field of website development. The idea is to construct a website that is planned, tested and constructed around the user so that organizations can offer their customers a relevant and productive user experience. The only way an organization can offer that is to start with a clear understanding of the end-users interests, goals, needs, and motivation to use the website and engage with your organization. Websites that put users first by understanding their audience and providing frictionless and barrier-free web experiences will inspire trust and confidence in the organization and will naturally see higher conversions and sales.
  6. Your bottom line. An organization’s profitability is enhanced by good design practices. In practical terms, a website with a user interface that considers the user minimizes user interaction costs and removes roadblocks, will see more conversions and ultimately deliver a superior ROI.

The ROI of design can be measured

Design outputs correspond to financial performance, and many organizations need to improve their design outputs.  Put simply, following best UX and service design practices helps companies grow their business.
In a recent study, McKinsey & Company surveyed 300 publicly listed companies over a five-year period and concluded that companies promoting top design practices outperformed industry-benchmark growth by a factor of almost 2-to-1, and this applied across diverse industries; retail, healthcare, financial, manufacturing, B2B's and so forth. By collecting over 2 million pieces of financial data and recording more than 100,000 design elements, McKinsey established a design index to score and measure growth and returns to shareholders, they noted that the top-quartal scorers saw 32% higher revenue growth and 56% higher total returns to shareholders compared to their lower-scoring peers. Interestingly, McKinsey found that of the companies surveyed, more than half admitted that they have no objective way of assessing or setting targets for their design output, as well, more than 40% of the companies surveyed do not talk to their end-users or seek end-user input during development.

Successful online and brand experiences start with strong UX and service design decisions. It is simply not possible to deliver an optimal customer experience without considering the end-user and the internal processes that will either delight or turn away your customers.

If you’d like to optimize your organization’s UX and design output, call or email us at [email protected]

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