Service Design Neue
Peter Boersma isn’t buying it. Earlier this week he posted a withering critique of service design as part of his Experience Design 101 article at Design for Conversion.
Yes, Service Design is here. And it’s supposed to be new, even though every book or article you read acknowledges that the service industry (main examples: hotels, restaurants) have been designing their services for ages. So what is new: The inclusion and central placement of the digital channel in modern services that do not require face-to-face contact.
Some books will try to make you believe there is something new (like “Service Design – Designing Services with Innovative Methods” by Satu Miettinen and Mikko Koivisto) but a lot of it should sound very, very familiar for anyone who ever realized that redesigning a website and its FAQ section might have an influence on the types of questions a call centre might get.
Boersma invokes the strawman that service design’s value as a practice somehow lies in its novelty. Maybe I’m out of touch but it’s not immediately clear that anyone has been pushing that argument. I’m about 2000 miles away from my copy of Designing Services with Innovative Methods at the moment but that’s certainly not what I got from the book.
It’s true that the service industry has been designing their services for ages. Lucy Kimbell addresses this practice as “silent design” in her contribution [PDF 240k] to Design and Creativity: Policy, Management and Practice and it’s worth noting as a counterpoint to what designers bring to the table.
Live|work opened their first studio in 2001 but they didn’t create the practice out of whole cloth. They’re well aware of the history behind service design and they’ve been quick to credit authors such as Shostack and Bitner for their formative contributions to the field. People have been writing about the design of services since 1953. Before that, it simply wasn’t well-recognized that services were distinctive from products. Many designers are just now coming around to the idea that services can be designed but rather than criticize them for being late to the game we should embrace the idea that they showed up at all.
Part of Boersma’s derision comes from service design encroaching on UX turf. That much is apparent from his call center example. The difference is that rather than suspecting that a website FAQ “might” have an impact on a call center, service designers are absolutely certain. They go to great lengths to demonstrate the connections and then find ways to break down the internal silos between the website team and the call center team — and every other customer-facing aspect of the organization.
I suppose there’s nothing stopping UX designers from doing the same thing, or anyone else for that matter, but for service designers taking the holistic view is our raison d’être.