Service design approach

This is an outline of how we approach Service Design at dxw. Service Design can cross over a number of disciplines, so we’ve written this based on our experience of applying service design to projects at dxw.

1. Clarify the problem and set the direction #

  • As part of the project kickoff, service designers interrogate the brief set by the client. Following an inception workshop, we might facilitate a problem framing session to identify the intended outcomes of the work (though not their expected solutions), alongside the recognised needs and problems that have initiated the project. This session happens early in the inception phase so that the outcomes can inform the project roadmap. We may use this problem framing template to help structure the discussion with stakeholders.
  • Problem framing results in a clear and careful articulation of the problem and the measurable impact that will result from the project. Arriving at this statement together with the client helps the project team align on a clear scope, and serves as a guide throughout the decision-making stages of the design process.
  • We work with user researchers to develop a project plan outlining the activities and methods that are appropriate to the project. At this stage, we can select and adjust the activities which will best meet the project’s budget, time and people constraints, as well as any other nuances. We may play with non-standard approaches and tools such as provocations and mental models, particularly when creating a new service that doesn’t yet exist.

2. Explore the service landscape and visualise insights #

  • Service designers work closely with user researchers to conduct research with users, stakeholders and internal teams and synthesise insights. Throughout research we aim to understand the people, processes, data and technologies that make up the service landscape and help the team to see the “bigger picture”.
  • We also look outwards, considering social, environmental and economic factors, policy, technology and behavioural trends and other existing data. This helps build a richer picture of the ecosystem that the service will inhabit.
  • We take a systems thinking approach in all that we do. This means viewing the service landscape as a system of interconnected components (both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’) and considering relationships and feedback loops between them. It also means we seek to understand system dynamics and how things may change over time. In this way we think about problems in both the short and long term, considering opportunities for change in both timeframes.
  • When we visualise the insights gathered throughout the exploration, it helps us to think through the problem at different levels of zoom, moving between the abstract and concrete. We keep a holistic view by mapping the service, particularly the ecosystem, stakeholders and current state. But we also dig deep into the details and visually capture the more technical aspects such as the behaviours, data, systems and processes involved.
  • This process highlights opportunities to improve service experiences and helps us to communicate them to others.

3. Create a service strategy #

  • Service designers aim to preserve clarity in the scope throughout the process and evolve the problem statement that was created at the beginning of the project. For example, early in a discovery it may not be clear what the service can achieve, so the problem statement may be adjusted as decisions are made and limitations become clearer.
  • Service designers think about the strategy of the service, and how it will meet both the user and the organisation or business goals. We can help service teams to develop business models and value proposition statements that are clear, measurable and demonstrate benefits to both the end-user and organisation.

4. Imagine new service experiences #

  • Service designers help the team transition from research insights to service concepts. We plan and facilitate workshops and other design activities. There are a number of methods that we may use at this stage, but all of them link concepts directly to value creation for both the user and the organisation.
  • Co-design is the gold-standard method to use during this exploratory phase. We bring together stakeholders, subject matter experts, designers and where possible end users to generate and discuss design ideas.
  • As part of ideation sessions, service designers can facilitate the prioritisation of concepts to prototype the best concepts (or blends of concepts). We use tools such as heuristic reviews or the theory of change to reflect on whether the proposed solution meets the needs and initial intentions of the service.
  • We help multi-disciplinary teams to reach the best outcomes by ensuring insights and ideas are shared effectively and that different workstreams are aligned. We facilitate collaborative decision-making and help teams and wider stakeholders reach consensus on the way forward.

5. Prototype the service #

  • Before any prototyping begins, service designers test the proposition with customers to understand if it will offer value to the end-users/customers as well as the business.
  • Service designers prototype and test service elements that fall outside of a screen context, for example experiential prototypes of a physical space.
  • Service designers consider wider factors relevant to service success such as marketing, communications, business process change and behavioural change. We work with relevant teams and specialists to design and prototype these elements of the service where possible.
  • A service designer may support the creation of screens and user flows, or would ideally support an interaction designer in doing this. We work to ensure that interaction designers, content designers and developers have clear user stories to work from, and that these are grounded in research insight. We also help define a prototyping strategy.

6. Tell the story and plan for implementation #

  • As we move from abstract to concrete, we craft artefacts that help others to envision the proposed service. We blend visual storytelling (e.g. storyboarding), which develops empathy for the people using and delivering the service, with technical diagrams (e.g. service blueprints), which serve as a detailed guide towards the implementation of the experience.
  • Service design helps to build a narrative of the service. Reflecting on the initial problem statement, a service designer can create a compelling presentation that explains how the problems identified at the start of the project have the potential to be resolved through the proposed service, explaining the rationale for the design decisions along the way.
  • Service designers consider factors that contribute to the service’s future success. We can create guides to support its implementation, prepare training that staff may need in order to deliver the service, and recommend organisational structures to ensure it will be properly managed in the future.
  • We also consider factors that could limit the success of the service and help teams mitigate them through risk management.
  • Services never exist in a vacuum, and their success depends on good alignment with the technology and processes that surround them. Service designers help manage these technical and non-technical interfaces.

7. Beta, live and beyond… #

  • Service designers like to be involved throughout the beta and live phases of a new service to help ensure that performance is tracked and outcomes measured. We help service teams set up Key Performance Indicators and the data streams required to track them.
  • In a similar way we can also support teams running existing services to identify and implement improvements.
  • When those services require transformation of an existing service the service designer plays an important role helping to define channel shift strategies for transitioning to a digital service.

Last updated: 9 May 2023 (history)