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Service Design and Why It Matters

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Ever used an amazing app only to be disappointed with the actual customer service? If so, you have experienced first-hand the difference between user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX). While the user experience (navigating the app) was good, the customer experience was a different matter. And this is where service design (SD) enters the picture.

The rest of this article will consider the differences between user experience (UX), customer experience (CX), and service design (SD), explore why service design matters, and provide a checklist that you can use to assess the state of service design at your organisation.

The differences between UX, CX, and service design

Unlike user experience and customer experience, which are concerned with how users interact with the company, service design refers to the internal planning and organisation of business resources (such as tools, processes, and people) to create a customer experience. Another main difference is that while UX and CX mainly look at issues from the viewpoints of the customers, SD examines issues from the angle of employees and their experiences with internal processes.

For instance, imagine booking a flight on an airline’s web or mobile app. You must first be able to locate where to input the details of your travel itinerary and to be brought smoothly to the checkout. If you need further assistance, you should also be able to contact customer support quickly, whether it’s via a chatbot, email, or a direct phone call. Those interactions make up the user experience and customer experience.

As you book a flight and/or ask questions, other events are happening behind the scenes. The website must be able to show you accurate information on flight dates and prices. The agent needs to access information on your flight itinerary, make necessary changes, and process refunds. These behind-the-scenes tasks, the people performing them, and the processes helping people perform the tasks are some components of service design.

Why service design matters

Good service design benefits the organisation in several ways, from generating opportunities for lead captures to fostering employee morale and reducing work turnover. Let’s look at them in detail.

Service design as an opportunity for capturing new leads

A 2021 study of online review statistics and trends found that 94% of survey respondents avoided businesses after reading bad reviews about them online. However, they also found that receiving negative reviews could also be turned into an opportunity for lead captures if businesses were responsive. As it turns out, 45% of respondents shared that they were more likely to visit a business if it responded to negative reviews, suggesting that responsiveness (an example of a behind-the-scenes service design process) plays an important role in encouraging customers to try out a new business.

Service design as an opportunity for increasing productivity and cost savings

Having an overview of internal service processes helps organisations identify where duplicate efforts and wasted resources occur. Resolving these can help improve employee productivity, reduce costs, and ultimately result in better customer experiences.

Service design as an opportunity for fostering employee morale and reducing work turnover

While it is tempting for organisations to only focus on their customers, it is important to remember that organisations and customer experiences cannot exist without the contributions of internal employees. A 2019 study found that employee turnover due to bad work culture in the United States over the past five years may have cost businesses up to $223 billion. Ultimately, as organisations seek to build relationships with their customers, they should also be looking to form long-term relationships with their own employees to lower turnover rates. Good service design can help organisations identify internal pain points before they get out of hand and provide opportunities for employees to have a greater stake in the organisation’s growth.

With these potential benefits in mind, how can organisations ensure that they are at the top of their game with their service design?

Improving service design using a service blueprint

A service blueprint is a useful tool that can help with improving service design and customer service management. As a handy visualisation of the relationships between customer and different internal and external components in a company, it is particularly helpful when paired together with a customer journey map.

Source: NNGroup

A service blueprint is divided into two levels, frontstage actions and backstage actions. As the term suggests, frontstage actions are what the customer sees and interacts with, such as interacting with a salesperson or visiting a website.

On the other hand, backstage actions are the things happening behind the scenes that are nevertheless essential for providing quality customer service. Some examples include providing accurate descriptions and measurements, performing in-house quality checks, and liaising with third party delivery service providers to ensure that customers get their items in time.

Here are some points to consider at each level:

  • Frontstage

  • How does the customer journey look like as they try to achieve their goal? Is there anything confusing? Do they require more information at any point?
  • What are customer reviews saying? What do they like? What do they dislike?
  • Backstage

  • How is the process of handling a customer complaint like? Do staff have the tools they need to perform their tasks?
  • Do staff notice certain issues recurring often? What are they? What can be done to improve those issues?
  • What are some systems and processes crucial to business operations?
  • What happens to company operations when unexpected issues occur, such as websites going down or delivery times taking longer than expected?

Like customer journey maps, service blueprints are helpful for bringing the different components of the customer experience into focus. Visualising and detailing these components can in turn lead to growth opportunities by identifying pain points and frustrations, as well as indicate directions for resource allocation.


In design thinking, a common piece of advice is to first fall in love with a problem, instead of being fixated with a solution. Service design provides another angle from which to approach these problems by shifting the point of view to examining internal processes. Just like a successful play cannot take place with just actors, a great customer experience will not happen just by focusing on user experience. Much can be learnt from sitting down with different employee teams to better understand what they need to do their work better. After all, good design thinking is not only user-centric, but also human-centric.

If you want to know more about user experience and its industry, do check out our other resources available on our website, such as our articles, weekly webinars, and podcasts.

CuriousCore offers mid-career professionals specialized and career accelerator courses and we also provide practitioner-led masterclasses and consultations for organisations to improve their customer experience strategy and business growth.