Service design thinking: What?


This post is part 1 of a 3-part series.

Amazon doesn’t have inventory, Uber owns no fleet, and Airbnb owns no rooms – yet they are the billion dollar companies of this decade. These companies have built their business models, products and offerings by providing platforms that enable the sharing of things, services and time to bring unprecedented customer value and efficiencies.

“Sharing” and “swarm” (crowdsourcing) economies are taking the world by storm and changing the way products and services are perceived, consumed, priced and valued by customers. Businesses are forced to rethink what they consider as core to their offerings, which, with the rise of exponential technologies, may no longer be relevant.

Ownership is declining; virtualization is on the rise and paving the way for an emerging parallel economy. Decentralization is also on the rise, while asset value is compressing and production cost is declining. This is leading to oversupply. And on the services front, even after service providers achieve cost reductions and efficiency targets and keep SLAs green, they struggle to meet client expectations on innovation and thus struggle to deliver customer satisfaction and customer delight.

So the question arises: “How do businesses create value for their products, services and offerings that can help their clients in the digital economy?”

A human-centered approach

In today’s disruptive business world, the three key drivers that have emerged strongest for value creation are:

  1. Digital, virtual, connected products, platforms and services
  2. Hyper customization
  3. Just-in-time delivery

The key differentiator for buyers in a world flooded with similar products and pricing is the customer experience. Businesses are increasingly tapping into the concept of design thinking for designing and packaging their services. Design thinking is a human-centric approach to the design of services and solutions centered around the user’s actual needs.

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws on the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” – Tim Brown

Design thinking uses various interdisciplinary approaches to problem solving and solution development. These include a human centric approach, empathy, radical collaborations, ideation, experimentation, a high propensity to action, and rapid prototyping.

Service design thinking is a method for improving the quality of a service by looking at real business context and creative thinking, as opposed to considering only technology or processes. Service design thinking leverages the concepts and tools of design thinking methodology and amalgamates them further with multiple disciplines like corporate strategy, management, engineering, psychology, architecture, marketing, ethnography to design technologically sound and strategically viable products and services.

Service design starts with understanding not only the obvious but also the latent needs and wants of users and stakeholders while challenging assumptions, limitations and the status quo. You analyze the front-end and back-end underlying process of the services, the various client touch points, and interactions in client service journeys and overall service environments to formulate a comprehensive solution for design and delivery of services.

In my next post, we’ll address the “how” of service design thinking.



Service design thinking: How?

Service design thinking: Why?

What can we learn from the Amazon-Whole Foods deal?




  1. Interesting Topic, I am excited to see the rest of the series.


  1. […] my last post, I talked about what service design thinking is. In this post, I’ll discuss how it is […]

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