Service Design – how employees, tools, and processes contribute to creating amazing online experiences

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Service design is the function of dedicating resource, business processes and business tools to enable amazing online experiences.

The creation of amazing online experiences is more than creating intuitive digital journeys across multiple screen types full of meaningful content. This is an important part, but today's consumer demands more.

Those organisations who are globally known for having successful online channels, are those who live and breathe service design.

The act of constructing service design, separates organisations into two types…

  1. Those who SAY they are customer centric
  2. Those who ARE customer centric

Those retailers who ARE customer centric have a high standard of service design functioning throughout the business.

Euromonitor’s economic/consumer trend experts have identified today’s consumer demands when engaging online with brands…

  1. Personalised 1 to 1 experiences
  2. Authenticity
  3. Meaningful conversations (those that contribute to a consumer’s decision making)
  4. To be in full control of their own journey

Service design supports and enables all four and is broken down into two parts…

Type 1 - Pre-Purchase. Activities to enhance experiences when the consumer is “in the moment to engage” and wanting to information gather and/or buy.

Type 2 - Post-Purchase. Activities required once a purchase has been completed.

“Activities” relate to the three components needed to make up a service design plan:

  1. People. The employees and vendors/service providers
  2. Props. The diverse list of physical and digital tools like the eCommerce technology
  3. Processes. All the workflows needed to control the people and props

These activities are a mix of “front of house” and “behind the scenes”, meaning, the consumer will come in direct contact with some but not all.

The Theatre analogy:


Think of service design like the front and back stages of a theatre performance. The consumer sees and experiences the front….

  • The quality of the venue
  • The theatre employees
  • The actors and their performance
  • Set design and props
  • The music used

Indirectly, the consumer is also impacted by the backstage activities…

  • The script creation
  • The leadership from the director
  • The support staff backstage

Any issues/faults that lie within the backstage will translate to a degraded performance and experience for those watching. The director deems a perfect performance if both front and back stage work harmoniously together.

In business, the executive team (the “director”) works with teams to deliver a “perfect performance” at scale, for millions of “audiences of 1”.

Service Design Examples

Retailers easily become stuck in segregating physical and digital retail, and structure the organisation accordingly. The consumer sees a single experience and doesn’t compartmentalise their journey to fulfil a need.

Implementing service design needs to break down this compartmentalisation and is heavily reliant on the support of executive teams to change the mindset.

Example #1 - Online Chat (pre-purchase front of house)

A recent study found the top three reasons for consumers engaging with online chat to be…

  1. “I got my questions answered immediately”
  2. “Because I can multi-task”
  3. “It’s the most efficient communication method”

Online chat (if implemented right) delivers personalised, one to one interactions that are contextually meaningful.

“Many online consumers want help from a live person while they are shopping online; 44% of online consumers say having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a Web site can offer.”

Online chat offers a real person to answer specific consumer questions that could not be answered online. It is the equivalent to a consumer approaching an employee in physical retail.

This is why consumers who use online chat convert more than 10 times higher than those who don’t use online chat.

Example #2 – Order Fulfilment (post purchase behind the scenes)

The “experience” does not end until the product is in the consumer’s hands.

If the post-purchase experience is poor, the entire experience is poor. Which is why Amazon has invested heavily in this function for decades.

The importance and impact of order fulfilment comes from the anxiety commonly felt by the consumer once the transaction is completed. The consumer hands over money first and receives nothing tangible in return.

In 2017 research found one of the fundamental reasons consumers prefer to buy in-store is so they can “take items home immediately”.

While everyone talks about “the last mile” and the pain it causes, this has been an issue for 50 plus years.

Legacy “Props”

The bigger business pain point in improving fulfilment is not the last mile, but legacy business systems.

Organisations are stuck on outdated legacy systems designed for the business first, not the consumer. These old systems struggle to accurately transfer information from one system to another in a timely fashion.

Research on large organisations found, “44% have legacy systems affecting every or most projects, compared with 28% for medium sized firms”.

These legacy business systems are crucial “props” and are not replaced due to the lack of appreciation of its negative impacts on end-to-end consumer experiences.

This ignorance becomes a business growth limiter.

Now be honest with yourself, do you think your business is truly customer centric?


This article was as tagged as Customer Experience , Customer Service

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