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Digital Service Design: where service design meets UX

How this process can help businesses provide the best digital service for their customers.

This is the era of digital transformation. Many companies are moving—either entirely or parts of their business—to the digital domain. Reasons for this vast migration can be found in the benefits the digital domain offers, such as the ease of automation, instant accessibility and direct communication. At the same time there are new companies popping up that were born digital, doing business on the digital highway from day one.

Category Insights
Author Menno Huisman
Date Mar 2019

Nevertheless, whether you’re a transforming or a digital native business, going digital definitely has its own challenges. In my previous article 10 Things To Consider When Creating A SaaS Platform I’ve already outlined the struggles many SaaS companies face and the insights I’ve gained with my company Booreiland when helping them as digital design partner. More and more we’re finding ourselves not just being a design and development partner, but providing strategic consultancy as well by answering the fundamental question: how can we help our clients provide the best possible digital service for their customers? We are in the business of Digital Service Design.

Digital services

Before diving in, what exactly is a digital service? I like to think of it as: helping a customer to achieve his or her set out goal online. What these goals are can vary to a great extend, and they’re often emotionally driven. Some examples of customer goals are: finding information about something, making a purchasing decision, or finding like-minded people.

Recent digital services we’ve created for our clients include:
…making it easier for customers to choose an e-bike that really fits them.
…empowering stakeholders of urban development to collaboratively make plans based on data insights.
…giving readers personalized book recommendations based on their favorite book.

Designing a digital service

Just like a product can be designed, also a service can be designed. The process of service design consists of doing extensive customer research, in order to find out their real pains, and from there drafting a value proposition that relieves them from their pains, followed by the ideation of service concepts. Context Mapping, the Value Proposition Canvas and Customer Journey techniques are commonly used tools during this process.

In the specific case of services in the digital domain, the service concept usually needs a vehicle through which the actual service is provided, such as a web platform, tool or app. Looking at our recently created digital services as mentioned above, the vehicles we built for them are:
…an e-commerce website with a highly experiential user journey to choose your e-bike.
…an urban development platform where users can plan their ideas on a map and access thematic data layers.
…a playful online wizard that recommends the next book you should read.

It’s never about one single service

There is another complexity when designing services, specifically digital ones: it’s often not about providing just one single service, but rather a mix of multiple services (Services Mix), that each fulfill a different customer goal. Therefore, during the service design process these different goals should all be taken into account when creating the whole customer journey. One way to approach this is to create various interaction funnels that branch out from the main customer journey and that each deliver a specific service to the customer. After those funnels are identified their UX flows can be designed, making clear how each specific service is being delivered.

Taking the holistic approach

Digital Service Design and UX/UI design are strongly intertwined. Digital Service Design needs to manifest itself through UX/UI, while UX/UI needs the context of the Services Mix in order to be designed effectively. Usually, we carry out Digital Service Design projects as iterative cycles of service design, UX/UI prototyping and user testing to see if both the Services Mix and the way it is provided are designed correctly, after which a prototype can be matched with the right technologies and turned into a real product, such as a SaaS platform.

This makes Digital Service Design a truly holistic approach, taking into account multiple angles—foremost business, design and technology angles. At Booreiland we’ve been applying this approach to projects for many years, and we see the discipline of Digital Service Design right at the core of it.

Digital often needs offline backup

Once your digital Services Mix has been set up and is able to find its way to your customers, your service design adventure might not end quite yet, depending on the complexity of your services. With our SaaS clients I’ve seen many cases where the digital Services Mix needed to be supported by offline services as well. Especially the customer onboarding funnel—the funnel from first awareness to final purchase and implementation of the SaaS product—was often in desperate need of offline services, such as providing workshops, demos and trainings. These kinds of offline services proved to be a way to make the onboarding funnel more successful and increase the speed of adoption of the SaaS product in the organization.

By reviewing your main customer journey and adding the offline funnels to the right moments in the journey, you’ll get a total overview of all the services you need to put in the mix, online and offline.

The value for your business

The value of Digital Service Design for your business can probably be best described by looking at the negative impact that poorly executed or non-existent Digital Service Design has. When you haven’t meticulously architected your value proposition and Services Mix, you might find yourself offering something nobody is waiting for. Subsequently, if you haven’t correctly implemented the way your Services Mix is being provided through UX, you’ll probably be seeing drop-offs along the customer journey, simply because people cannot find what they’re looking for or don’t understand what you’re offering in the first place.

Getting both your Services Mix itself and the way it is provided right, means a higher level of user engagement and ultimately a higher conversion rate. Besides that, a well-executed Digital Service Design process also creates clarity within your own workforce: everyone knows what the company is selling and how it is selling it. This makes it easier to let them help bringing your company to greater heights.

So let’s take on this journey and become confident about the choices you make for your digital business!