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What is service design and how can I, as a communicator, benefit from it?

Service design is a word you will probably know from somewhere. However, you often hear people asking what does it mean in practice?


Service design is a term that can be used in many different contexts. It is not very well defined because it is not linked to just one specific area of expertise. Service design is a general way of thinking and a set of tools that can be used for design and development. These tools can be service paths, customer profiles or even observation. Service design can be applied wherever a service and its user interact, both physically and digitally. 


Service design is a way of designing services from a customer experience perspective, i.e. it always starts from the customer’s needs. The aim is to create useful, easy-to-use and desirable service experiences for the service user, and also to enable the continuous evolution of services. This means, among other things, involving the customer in the development of the service at all stages.


Service design differs from traditional development in many ways, for example, in projects that are developed in traditional ways, the customer often only gives weight to the solutions made during the process once they are available to the users. In communications, this could mean, for example, that the success of a social media campaign is only based on the reactions of its social media followers. 


Service design in the planning of such a campaign allows successes, developments and possibly even results to be observed even before the campaign itself has launched, as its purpose and benefits have already been considered from many angles. For example, the process has already produced some results on how to improve the service or communication of the customer’s company beyond the campaign itself. 


While service design explores and gathers information about the behaviour and mindset of the target group as a whole, traditional service development solutions tend to focus on marketing surveys and customer feedback. While these are good ways to keep track of service performance, they do not provide a complete picture of the customer experience.


How can service design be used in communication? 


In the field of communication, taking the customer’s perspective into account and engaging in an active dialogue is often a natural way of working together. However, design thinking combines communication with a creative and analytical way of thinking. It is important to think about who you are communicating with and to consider co-development. For example, if a communication plan is being developed, the client, the client’s target group and subject-matter experts will be involved in addition to the communication agency. 


Service design helps to understand what professionals and service users have absorbed as tacit knowledge through their personal experiences. This gives a much broader picture of what service users really think, feel and do. From this, a communication plan will be created that best supports everyone, from those developing the communication to the end-users of the service.


Modern communication starts with understanding. Communicators benefit from service design in their work.


Two key tips for communicators on design thinking


  1. Remember that service design is an iterative process. An iterative process does not proceed in a linear fashion. During the process, you can always go backwards from development ideas and you can repeat different steps until you have achieved the desired outcome. This ensures that communication has been thought through from several angles and that potential pitfalls and obstacles have been overcome and thought through. This approach leaves room for reflection at different stages of the process, for example in terms of crisis communication.
  2. Co-development is at the heart of service design. When developing communication, make sure you take into account the needs of the customer, the end-user of the service and the opinions and ideas of professionals at different stages of the process.  The saying “too many cooks in the kitchen” does not apply to service design, which is all about getting as many different thinkers involved as possible. With a wide range of perspectives from different people on the subject, it is ultimately possible to clearly identify the main communication strand that brings together the different perspectives. This avoids information overload and helps to clarify the main core message!

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