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Posted: 4 June 2021
By Alastair Lee

Service design is a dog bowl of water outside a pub

Designing services that work at scale can be complicated. But let’s not forget, at its core, service design is simply about offering the right support to your service user, as and when they need it. It can be as simple as putting a dog bowl of water outside a pub.

Lupin with water bowl
"If only I could reach it" says Lupin the lurcher.

Service Design as a discipline is in the ascendance. More organisations seem to be hiring more service designers. People I know that used to be UX designers are now service designers too.

There’s something grand about service design. It’s broader in scope than UX. Service designers care about the website and the app experience, but also the letters, the stores, the phone calls, and how it all weaves together over weeks, months, even years. Ooooh it’s holistic!

There’s lots of jargon too – we design ‘touchpoints’ that are ‘frontstage’ or ‘backstage’ which we summarise in ‘service blueprints’. It can be mind boggling.

But let’s not forget that service design – designing how services work – is all around us. Ordinary people in ordinary jobs have been happily designing services, without all this paraphernalia.

Take pubs for instance. Their service offers a comfortable environment and the opportunity for refreshment and social interaction. They have backstage processes – the kitchen, cellar, sourcing, accounting – and a front stage experience – the interior, the music, the food and drink, the staff, the signage. When publicans make choices that affect these things, they are designing their service.

And we, as service users, know when they fall short (the wobbly table, £15 for a burger on a plank of wood), and when they get it right (the welcoming smile, the crackling fire, the taster of a new ale, and, yes, the bowl of water for my thirsty hound).

So next time you’re staring, perplexed, at a service blueprint, trying to piece it all together, remember that behind that diagram are real people, in real situations who need your support. And that by taking your time, breaking it down and considering their actual needs, you can make them (and their dogs) very happy.

On that note, come on Lupin, time for a pint.

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