Designing for Both Sides

The point of my Abandoning Service Design post earlier this week was to rebut the assertion that “service design” isn’t gaining enough ground in the US. My argument wasn’t focused on terminology, but Joel Bailey made a great observation in the comments that I want to highlight.

To paraphrase, the term “customer experience” focuses attention on the customer. And while that’s a necessary component of service design, it isn’t sufficient:

…it’s just as much about employee engagement and co-design for the benefit of the service provider. Clients have to recognise that increasingly both customers and staff operate in a service ecology. This needs integrated, holistic thinking, involving the community of players, not just a single strand.

Well said. I have the same problem with the term “user experience design” because it suggests a similar one-way value proposition. It really helps to articulate the distinction.


  1. Strong point! One of the key elements in service design is that you create value for both sides.

  2. protopartners

    Totally agree, we cant talk about creating a great customer experience unless it is sustainable and workable for the companies that provide it. Customer Experience is a means to and end, not an end in itself. In the end, we are employed by clients to assist them in creating greater value…company value. Service Design acknowledges this, creating mutual value for both customer and company.

  3. Ben Reason

    Absolutely spot on – thanks!

  4. Ben Reason

    On the take up of service design in the US – please don’t be fooled that it is all easy over here in Eurp. I think the real issue is that clients are not so bothered what you call what you do but we are all hung up on it. Clients want results. Our biggest and most long standing clients thinks we do some innovation and some wizzy web applications that make them money.

    The public sector is different – do you have one? Here service design is just a natural term for the activity of making a service – it is not a discipline and may well happen without service designers involved. The reason the words service design are important is that people have to write tenders for us to get work out.

    Most encouraging is a public sector agency we are working with who actually have a Director of service innovation & design – we were made up!




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