It’s the Service Design!

This is how Design Thinking empowers customer experience. 

The May edition of Touchpoint – The Journal of Service Design explores the relationship between service design (design thinking applied to design of services) and customer experience departments (CX).

For many organisations CX has been a function that has measured and captured customer insights through Net Promoter Scores or various analytics. Often, however, data gathering and analysis that constitutes the core of CX activities, cannot automatically result in driving necessary changes in customer experience. In other words, making things happen in order to enable the desired customer experience. This is where service design thinking comes with significant help.


Design thinking is a human centred approach to problem definition, designing solutions or products, rapid prototyping, grounded in end-users insight and responding to their needs, expectations and behavioural patterns. Based on the insight gathered by CX departments service design approach allows any organisations to turn analysis into initiatives driving change, innovation, and ultimately enabling delightful client experiences. Furthermore, design thinking approach allows to complement quantitative customer data  (often captured by NPS) with qualitative research  through contextual interviews, customer journey mapping, co-creation and prototyping – clarifying and examining identified customer pain-points. This in turn helps organisations also to ideate and define the right solutions to address these pain-points. It is a holistic approach with people-centred insights at the heart of solutions that lead to real innovation and improved experiences across the customer lifecycle.

Service design, or more broader experience design, can be defined as a mindset, a methodology and a toolkit that provides a roadmap to improved design and greater longevity of organisations, products, services, interactions and experiences. Traditionally CX practitioners have had data and analysis, great statistical insights, however they often have struggled to identify actionable insight and then design or redesign services based upon those insights – in other words define scope of projects. Service design embedded in the CX empowers practitioners with framework for identifying insights, framing the design of solutions and leading collaborative design that delivers measurable outcomes. In other words service design provides the necessary building blocks for improving customer experience. So what is the magic formula of the service design approach?

CX is a strategic business value proposition that by improving the customer experience promises an increase in customer loyalty, brand reputation and revenues in the business of selling products or services. Inclusion of service design practitioners within customer experience teams is a good start and beginning of a journey towards a desired client experience. It is often the journey itself that teaches us a lot about the destination and helps define or revise what desired experience should be and how it could be achieved. Development of business tailored service design toolkit helps to achieve these goals. A toolkit may include a customer journey mapping technique, service blueprinting, ethnography and customer interviews, validated customer personas, cross-functional co-design workshops, rapid prototyping, agile project delivery, storyboarding, visual communication and many other.

The Customer journey mapping is growing in popularity not only among customer experience (CX) professionals, but also within marketing, customer service, digital user experience (UX), product management, HR,  IT or shared services organisations. It helps to visualize customer experience from the customers’ point of view, across all different touch-points they have with a brand as they seek to achieve a specific goal or goals. Journey maps transform complex data and insights about customers into a compact visual representation. The most effective journey maps go beyond simply capturing and representing data in a visual format to tell a story about customers’ experience from their perspective. They help to create empathy for customers and support change and design-oriented decision making within a service delivery model.

A key to understanding customers’ experience is to understand how their interactions with a brand make them feel. Is a brand delivering experiences that generate positive experiences? Do customers want to repeat the experiences they’ve had with a brand? The emotions customers have while interacting with a brand are correlated to their future behaviours—and those behaviours directly impact business growth. Customer expectations for their interactions with brands are becoming increasingly demanding and less forgiving, as more and more companies are delivering customer experiences that truly make the customers’ lives better. Journey maps raise customer emotions at key points in their journey to the forefront. Two third of decisions customers make are informed by the quality of their experiences along their journey. Across their entire journey ever-touch point is a brand experience that impacts the overall brand perception.

There is a clear trend across the industries, including financial services, to expand the customer experience operations beyond capturing and measuring the voice of a customer (or responding to customer complaints). The goal is to empower the CX departments to inspire and drive innovative change within organisations that results in a redesigned holistic brand and service experience across all points of interactions between an organisations and its customers. Seeing business through customers’ eyes offers powerful insight that make customers’ expectations, experiences, and behaviours more tangible. It not only exposes customers’ pain-points and provide deeper understanding of their emotions as their interact and transact with a business, but also inspires, empowers and drives change.

Few months ago the Harvard Business Review (November 2015) shared cross-industry insight on how organisations are already creating new product owners around customer journey maps in order to successfully compete in their markets based on their unique customer experience journey proposition. In the 2014 survey of 200 leading global companies, technology research company Gartner found that 89% of respondents included in their business strategy competing primarily on the basis of customer experience from 2016 onwards. Well the 2016 arrived and it’s the experience design, stupid!

Companies as diverse as Apple, Barclays, Amazon, Fidelity,  Virgin, eBay, IBM, P&G, IKEA, AirBnB, Hitachi, Sony, Porsche, Coca-Cola or Nike pursue delivering the ultimate client experience journeys.  One of the last large industries to start embrace design thinking and service design is banking and investment management.

The objective is to differentiate the banking or investment experience by making it more convenient, simple, cost-effective and enjoyable. In the near future number of factors will further shape how we will redesign financial services; including new ways of verifications (video and image recognition or biometric verification), new ways to save and invest, platforms to process payments, and of course ever-evolving digital technologies leveraging user-centred design of interfaces and visual communication.

As interest in design thinking and customer-centricity increases, banks invest in customer experience initiatives grounded in genuine understanding of customer needs and behaviours (through a range of advanced data analysis and research techniques to drive improvements in customer experience in a structured and consistent way). To become truly customer-centred financial organisations such as Fidelity, Virgin Money, Nordea Bank or Bank of Ireland have built service design methodology into the heart of how they operate and drive change. They also combine industry and “out of sector” best practices around customer experience (CX) to understand the propositions needed to meet future customer interactions and to forecast the way in which the digitalisation of banking, changing customer behaviours and expectations will continue to shape the “bank of the future.”

Customers’ expectations are changing. What is easy and simple today, will be difficult tomorrow, because your experience today becomes your expectations everywhere, across consumer lifestyles and business sectors.


With the explosion of digital and acceleration on innovations, customers demand companies to personalize the experience, predict and proactively address their current and future needs, tailor communication and guidance and provide on-the go accessible services. It is widely expected that by 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator across many industries.

Customer experience design includes digital and physical interactions layered upon other interactions  – including business mission, technology, delivery, on-boarding, implementation, customer service and engagement. Delivering branded, integrated customer experiences means finding solutions to many complex problems and orchestrating how those solutions work together. Service design thinking provides means to defining project and change transformation that lead to client experience success.