This is service design thinking

For my project work after the summer I will be working with the emergency room (ER) in Trondheim to improve their patient experience. My design supervisor for the project recommended that I read the book: “This is service design thinking: Basics, tools, cases” to get an overview of the process I should apply to such an open task. Service design is not new to me. It is, in a way, what I study in Trondheim, however I had never read a whole book on the topic before. I read the book and this article is a summary of the things I learned. 


There really is no good definition for service design. It is an evolving field and its borders are unclear. However there are five principles that always apply to service design.

User centered

To make services you have to include the customer in some way, since services can not exist separately from the user experience. However, making your services user centered is not always easy. The book uses this example: “Think of two customers. Both were born in 1948, male, raised in Great Britain, married, successful and wealthy. Furthermore, both of them have at least two children, like dogs and love the Alps. One of them could be Prince Charles and the other one Ozzy Osbourne.” Data is important, but you can not use it alone. The designer has to get an insight into the cultural and social context as well as the motivation of the users. It is also important to have a common language that you share with your users. This makes operations like customer service much easier.

Everyone can be creative, and they should! Putting the customer at the center of the process involves opening creation up to them as well. As more stakeholders are added such as cashiers, customer service operators and management, more opportunities for co-creation opens up. These people know exactly what they need to do their job effectively and only by allowing them into the process can they show that to the designer. It also makes transitions across interactions smoother. Making it vital to the service design process.


Imagine your service as a movie. An ever changing picture for the user that takes place over a certain period of time. It is important to arrange the pictures in such a way that they make sense, and tell the story that you want to tell. To influence this one can map out all of the different interactions the user has with the service, so called touchpoints, and arrange them in the best way possible. Perhaps some steps occur too early, or crucial information is not given at the right time. It is also important to think about the user’s action before they encounter your service. For example, imagine going to the hairdresser, the first point you should consider is when the user thinks about getting a haircut. Where, what, and how they get information are important points to consider if you want to capture the customer at an early stage.


Some services, like housekeeping at a hotel, are designed to be invisible. However, if customers do not notice it and it shows up on their bill, they are not going to be happy. Imagine your last holiday, you probably brought home some souvenirs. Pictures, a jar of sand or a shot glass with a flag on it. These all help you remember the experience you had and evidencing for service design works the same way. As a physical object to remind you of something and prolong the user experience. However, there is a limit to this. Think of junk mail as evidencing gone too far.


Completely holistic design is sadly impossible. The world is just too complex for us to take every single thing into account. However, one should always strive to see the bigger picture. The context around the service is very important to consider to ensure user satisfaction. The also says: “At the level of the service sequence, there should be a focus on alternative customer journeys. There are always a number of alternative touchpoints and approaches, which need to be taken into account. Sequences change and need to be repeatedly reappraised from various perspectives to ensure a great customer experience. Hence, it is important to map the mood and feelings of all stakeholders throughout the service journey.” Holistic thinking is important to ensure satisfaction.

The book summarizes it better than I could: “service design thinking supports the

cooperation of different disciplines towards the goal of corporate success through enhanced customer experiences, employee satisfaction, and integration of sophisticated technological processes in pursuing corporate objectives.”


There are many tools presented in the book. I want to highlight two that I found interesting and plan to use. 

Stakeholder maps

Stakeholder maps are created by making a list of all known stakeholders to the service and then mapping it out visually, often grouping by internal and external stakeholders. Furthermore stakeholders with similar tasks or many interactions can be clustered together making it easier to spot potential synergies. Flows between different stakeholders can also be visualized, materials, money, information or labor. This also contributes to a simpler overview of a complex system.

Service blueprint

A service blueprint specifies and details each specific part of a service. This is then presented visually, usually showing the chronology and level of the touchpoints with the customer as well as what is going on in the background. Service blueprints should be made collaboratively, bringing together people from different departments, as well as users, to create a more holistic overview. This might also create understanding between different departments. It should also be a ‘living document’ that changes when the service or service provider does to give an up to date image.


There were also some cases in the book that were interesting as they laid out how these tools, methods and principles could be applied in a real life environment. I really enjoyed the book as it made many principles I had learned about before more concrete and laid them out in an easy to navigate way.

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