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  • Writer's pictureRegina G.

Service design case study. What it is and how it works with examples.

Updated: Mar 3, 2023

Service design is mind blowing! Some time ago I was lucky to be part of the Service Design course which turned out to be one of the most interesting and fascinating marketing disciplines for me. In this article, I share the Service Design case study that I did and also post some books, videos and articles which can be beneficial to read to learn more about Service Design process.

Service Design
Service Design

This is a long-read (sorry, guys). But I include shortcuts for you to jump to the parts that might be most interesting for you. And though in the text I often say "I", I was not alone doing the whole project, but enjoyed working together with Loris and Levin. Hi, guys!

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What is Service Design?

Service Design is the process of designing and organizing the elements of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between the service provider and the customer. It involves understanding the needs of the customer, as well as the business objectives of the service provider, and then creating a service that meets both of these goals. Service design is a practical tool. So, to understand the Service Design process, I worked in a team which developed services for regular users of public transport.

Service design is user-centered, co-creative, sequencing, evidencing and holistic.

The Double Diamond Design Thinking

Service Design is based of the principle of the Double Diamond. In short, the Double Diamond is a helpful way to think about creating a new service. It helps you start with a broad idea, then narrow it down and create a plan, build and test it, and finally launch it to the customers. It's a flexible and iterative process that allows you to adapt and improve the service as you go.

Photo of the Double Dimaond design approach
The Double Diamond design approach

The Double Diamond process can be split into two parts and four stages:

  1. The first diamond shape is called "Discover." This is when you start with a broad idea of what you want to create, and then you do research to learn more about what your customers need and want. You might talk to people, do surveys, or observe how they use similar services. This helps you understand the problem you're trying to solve and what the opportunities are for a new service.

  2. The second diamond shape is called "Define." This is when you take what you learned in the Discover stage and use it to narrow down your ideas. You decide what the main problem is that you want to solve and what the main features of your service will be. This is also when you create a plan for how your service will work and what it will look like.

  3. The third shape is called "Develop." This is when you actually create your service. You use the plan you made in the Define stage to build it, and you test it to make sure it works well.

  4. The last shape is called "Deliver." This is when you launch your service and make it available to your customers. You also continue to monitor and improve it based on feedback you get from your customers.

Both diamonds are of the same size meaning we should spend as much time trying to understand customers' problems as we wild spend on creating solutions for them.

Segmentation and persona

To understand what challenges our customers might have, we need first to understand who they are. And indeed, the Service Design's first principle is to be user-centered. Therefore, the first thing that I did was creating buyer personas. But this might be tricky. As Louis Grenier says "traditional buyer personas need to die of a violent death: they’re useless in their current form because they’re full of demographics information that has nothing to do with the reasons why people buy your stuff".

Picture with Prince Charles and Ozzy Osborne
Buyer personas can be of the same demographics, but belonging to absolutely different segments

Therefore, I created two personas that represent regular commuters. The first one was an engineer who goes to work and back home using a bus. He has a family, stable job, hobbies and lives in his own house. He takes a bus in the morning where he hopes to open his laptop, check his schedule, set up some calls and reply to emails.

Picture and explanation about Mike as a regular commuter
Buyer persona Mike

Another type of commuters are like Jane, my second buyer persona. Jane is a young student who works on a construction site. She uses different means of public transport and gets up early to be on time at work.

Picture of description of Jane as a buyer persona
Buyer persona Jane

Now we know who we develop our services for. But it would be a mistake to jump to creating something for them. Because remember our Double Diamond? We need first to learn about experiences and pains of regular commuters and narrow our focus down to define the main problem.

Fall in love with the problem. Not the solution.

Customer journey

To understand needs and wants of customers, we need to see things from the customer's point of view. To do that, creating a customer journey is a very helpful tool. Customer journey is the series of steps a customer goes through when interacting with a business or organization. It includes everything from the first time they hear about the service, to when they decide to buy it, to when they use it, and then beyond. It's basically the story of how a customer experiences a service.

I created a customer journey map for Mike, our regular commuter and found out that his main challenge is commuting during rush hours when pubic transport is overcrowded, Consequently, it is noisy, smelly and disturbing while Mike is commuting.

Customer journey map
Customer journey map for the regular commuter Mike

As for Jane, in addition to crowded transport, it is also expensive for her to buy tickets and sometimes she forgets to renew her ticket subscription or buy additional travel zones and, as a result, she might get a fine.

Customer journey map
Customer journey map for the regular commuter Jane

Storytelling in Service Design

It’s important to not only visualize the path of the customer journey encapsulated via a series of touchpoints –but also to collect stories that explain why the journey happened as it did. What were the circumstances, motivations and experiences that resulted in this process? Therefore, it might be useful to draw a storyboard.

Storytelling for Mike
Storytelling for Mike

Here is one commuting day of Mike. Mike does not know what he can expect from his ride. It sadly turns out that he has not have a seat and also there are too many people in the bus. Mike knew it... So he decides to stay strong and survive the ride. In the middle of the ride a woman comes in and starts to listen to her music so loud that anybody can hear it. Mike is a calm person but right now he notices that he is getting angry. Five more stops to go. The smell in here is mix between cheap perfume and human sweat. Finally, he arrives at his stop. It takes him an hour to get out of the crowded bus... He is sweating, smelling and he is angry and frustrated. He likes his colleagues and his work, but when he comes to work like this, he rather wishes for the work from home.

Storytelling for Jane
Storytelling for Jane

Jane works in different parts of the city and has to check her transport tickets daily. And also the route of how she can get there. It takes time. She was not attentive enough, she got a fine because she forgot to buy an additional travelling zone to her ticket. As she works in construction, she also has some tools with her. But her bus is so full that she get an angry look from passengers who are irritated by her big bag with tools. Jane wants to use the public transport because she cares about the environment. But she is not good with budget and planning. And getting a fine is critical as she is a student and does not have a full-time job.

New service blueprint and solutions

After diving deep into the problems and challenges of regular commuters, I came up to the main problem definition which is right in the middle of our Double Diamond. So, the main problems for regular commuters are overcrowded vehicles, expensive tickets, difficulties to order cleaning services and lack of notifications from the transport company. To tackle those challenges, I decided to create an application. Here is the new blueprint of the customer journey for regular commuters.

New blueprint for regular commuters
New blueprint for regular commuters

The new app would provide all the necessary functionality to tackle the problems of the regular commuters. For example, to avoid crowds customers would have access to real-time vehicle capacity monitoring. They would have the possibility to choose among routes and alternative depending on the free seats availability. The app would connect to smart devices like smart watches and Alexa. Passengers would get notifications from the app on the time when they need to leave for a stop as well as the validity of their ticket. Besides, every time when they use public transport, they would collect points that they might exchange to a variety of good in the app like a free cup f coffee or discount for a e-bike rental. Finally, the app would have a chatbot where commuters would ask questions and notify the transport company if the cleaning is needed.

This is a quick mock-ups created with the help of Canva. In my next blog post, I'll share another case study which will be built with Figma.

Application interface
Application interface mock-ups made with Canva

Service Design summary

My Service Design process stops in the middle of the second diamond in the Double Diamond design approach. The next step is testing. Unfortunately, I was restricted by the timeframe of the course and had no access to transport company to discuss the possible implementation of my app. But it could be a next step. But not the last one. As Service Design is an iterative process meaning that the design process is repeated multiple times, with the goal of continuously improving and refining the service. This approach allows for the incorporation of feedback and testing, which can lead to a more user-centered and effective service. Iterative service design also allows for flexibility and adaptation as the needs and expectations of users change over time.

Service Design is a vital tool for crafting memorable experiences that leave a lasting impression on customers. It allows organizations to take a human-centric approach to service delivery, resulting in solutions that are tailored to meet the specific needs and wants of the people who use them.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. I hope it provided valuable insights on the importance of Service Design approach. Next is some additional links where you can read about the Service Design and get as much excited about it as I got.

What else to read and watch about Service Design:

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