I'm a Service Designer and I design for businesses, not users

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31 May 2017

As customer-centricity for businesses becomes more and more mainstream, we are seeing an increase of disciplines and functions in the design space. In an already crowded arena we have User Experience Designers, Customer Experience Designers, and Service Designers. I recently saw someone post about a CX Strategist, a title that completely boggles my mind.

Although each of these disciplines follow similar methodologies, and design-thinking approaches to the ambiguity of a problem space, and comprise of fairly similar skills and backgrounds, they also bring their own discrete craft and outcomes.

What's missing however is clear definition of the ways each work together to create meaning and impact in the most successful way.

There is often overlap and confusion about which discipline does what, and when. There is an us vs. them mentality between the three disciplines.

This conflict mentality is caused by an overwhelming lack of definition in the design space.

For designers of all disciplines there is a little-to-no self-awareness of what it is that each brings to the table, a large desire for ownership and credit, and an varying levels of collaboration.

Perhaps this is perpetuated by the notion that is often paraded throughout design-thinking circles that everyone is a designer. While true, it may dilute that there are specific design crafts with specific outputs or the value that each bring.

Liam Keogh asks this question to Service Designers: what do you do that is fundamentally different from CX design?.

It's a great question.

What do Service Designers do that is fundamentally different? How can Service Designers, User Experience Designers, and Customer Experience Designers work together and understand the value they each bring to the space?

Ultimately, Service Designers avoid the detail of delivery, solve whole-of-business-problems, and create boundaries for design. They are responsible for identifying the right things to build.

Service Designers focus on the strategic experience. The what and why we would deliver services in specific ways. I often say that Service Designers are actually business consultants that design for business.

Service Designers articulate the strategic experience through commonly used artefacts like Design Principles, as Service Concepts, Service Blueprints, Mindsets (distinctly different to personas), amongst others.

Whereas both CX and UX disciplines focus on how to build the thing right.

UX and CX Designers focus on the executed experience. The how and why we deliver via specific touch-points. By contrast, CX and UX designers are human-centred designers, that design for users.

1. Service Designers should avoid detail

As Service Designers we should not be concerned with the specific delivery or end-result of what comes from our work. While we may prototype—and leverage our CX/UX skillsets—to test that our ideas are desirable, viable, and feasible, our work remains a prototype.

True to its definition, a prototype is a first or preliminary version of a device or vehicle from which other forms are developed. It is not the final version, and is used only to inform delivery teams of the outcome.

If we consider the double-diamond process, Service Design is the first-pass of the problem space through the diamonds to articulate the what and why.

The deliver aspect of the process is delivering on the most common service design artefacts mentioned above. It is delivering to the business, not the user.

2. Service Designers solve whole-of-business-problems, not part-of-business-problems

What I expect to be the most contentious statement of this piece, my belief is that Service Designers solve an entire business problem as a whole, and focus on outcomes for business.

They do this by considering the entire ecosystem, not just the end-to-end user journey, and map out how the whole business should respond to deliver a service that is desirable, viable, and feasible. Articulated through a service blueprint, we can see how the pieces move together.

Supported by design principles and mindsets for customers and employees, we begin to add boundaries for the problem space and enable delivery teams to execute with meaningful impact.

3. Service Designers create boundaries

By remaining at the principle and outcome level of designing experiences, Service Designers allow all other design disciplines to focus on their craft and work within problem spaces that have already been defined and articulated.

They create boundaries around discrete experiences that work together, and can fundamentally change the way a business operates. This is something that CX and UX disciplines shouldn't exert effort in achieving. It is not the core function of the disciplines.

While they could definitely do so, we need to be mature about our place in the overall design ecosystem and know how we can focus our core craft to achieve the best outcome we possibly can. We need to understand that we can only be efficient on a few things, not all things.

The best experiences are designed when Service Designers have faith that their initial work will be brought to life and avoid going into detail, and when CX/UX Designers have faith that the strategic direction has been considered and focus on delivering great outcomes.

By having a sense of maturity about where we are in the overall design process, we can execute incredible experiences that create meaningful impact to both users and businesses.