Service Design: What is it?

by Aatisha Cyrill

The UW Madison’s Center of User Experience conducted its UW Design Community virtual session on the topic “Find gaps and share your ideas through Service Design” on March 18, 2024. The speakers were Laura Grady and Maria Dahman, User Experience Architects with the Center for User Experience. The session talked about understanding service design, the blueprinting that goes behind the service design process and how it can be applied to everyday lives to enhance customer experience. Attended by an audience of varied disciplines, the event had a lot to cater to all. 

Service design is all about getting the services served to its customers right or more precisely how a particular service makes the users feel. It is a strategic approach that focuses on creating and optimizing services to meet the needs and expectations of users. It involves understanding the entire service journey, from initial contact to ongoing support, and designing every touchpoint to deliver a seamless and satisfying experience. Unlike traditional design disciplines that may focus solely on products or interfaces, service design considers the entire ecosystem in which a service operates, including people, processes, technologies, and physical environments.

Learning about the tools and processes that design researchers use in their work can be beneficial to anyone, including those who support researchers or who create digital projects. 

How Journey Maps and Empathy Maps Find Ways in the Process

Journey maps and empathy maps are two essential tools used in service design to understand the experiences and emotions of users throughout their interactions with a service.

Journey Maps: These visual representations depict the user’s journey step by step, from the initial point of contact to the final outcome. By mapping out each touchpoint and interaction, designers can identify pain points, moments of delight, and opportunities for improvement. Journey maps provide a holistic view of the user experience, helping teams align their efforts to create a seamless and coherent service.

Empathy Maps: Empathy maps focus more into understanding users’ emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. They are typically divided into sections such as what the user sees, hears, thinks, feels, and does. By empathizing with users and gaining insights into their perspectives, designers can develop more meaningful solutions that resonate with their needs and desires.

Service Blueprint (The skeleton of service design)

A service blueprint is a visual representation of the entire service ecosystem, depicting the various components and interactions involved in delivering a service. Unlike journey maps, which focus on the user’s perspective, service blueprints provide a comprehensive view that includes both frontstage and backstage elements.

  • Frontstage: These are the touchpoints and interactions that users directly encounter during their service journey, such as customer interactions, digital interfaces, and physical environments.
  • Backstage: These are the behind-the-scenes processes and systems that support the delivery of the service, including staff operations, technologies, and organizational policies.

The speakers emphasized the importance of blueprinting in discovery and design phases of the customer journey. It helps in effectively discovering the user’s pain points and emotions and guides them in designing solutions to their problems. Also, blueprinting is applicable to physical services like food catering, digital services like a food ordering app and events like a talk show. Laura Grady proposed the audience to design a blueprint for personal life which sounded like a fun challenge.

Service Design is part of a bigger picture that encompasses user experience design. It is more of ‘how’ the customer experience is delivered. The correlation can be drawn to how we design systems in the real world. To understand the difference between service design and UX design, let’s use an example from our research data ecosystem – open access institutional repositories.  

UX design in this context focuses just on the user journey and interactions within the repository platform. It ensures that researchers, faculty, and staff can easily navigate the platform to deposit their research work and access collections while accessibility features being at priority.

Service design considers the broader ecosystem in which the repository operates. This can be broken down into:

  • Analyzing the entire research dissemination process, including factors such as publication requirements, funding mandates, and academic workflows. 
  • Engaging with various stakeholders, including researchers, faculty members, librarians, and administrators, to understand their needs, pain points, and goals related to research dissemination.
  • Ensuring that the repository complies with relevant policies, such as public access mandates from funding agencies or institutional guidelines for research data management. 
  • Exploring opportunities to integrate the repository with other systems and services used within the institution or the broader research community to include interoperability with institutional repositories at other universities, academic publishing platforms, or research collaboration tools.

In this example,  service design and UX design are essential for creating a successful open-access institutional repository that effectively supports research dissemination and access. If you are interested in finding out more about service design or UX design and how it can benefit your services or projects, you can connect with the Center for User Experience and attend future events.