Service Design in 60 Minutes

We are surrounded by digital or hybrid service systems, but while product management and product design are well established disciplines, their big little sister Service Design never made it out of the avantgarde niche. Maybe that is a good thing.

Ten years ago, back in 2014 when Service Design was even more avantgarde than today, my colleague and friend Dr. Carolin Thiem decided to evangelise for this new approach at Europe‘s largest digital conferentce re:publica. We designed a 1-hour workshop that could be ran with an infinite number of people and would teach participants the key principles of service design by sketching a new service hands-on. The room was jam-packed and the results where overwhelming: Around 100 people designed 30 new services in 60 minutes.

Caro and I wanted to use the re:publica to „disseminate“ the fundamentals of Serivce Design in the digital ecosystem, in the hopes that it would spread and help establish the new discipline in the work lives of digital innovators. Looking back, it kind of did. In the following years, Service Design became a thing in the Berlin innovation scene, some years later it even found its way into more traditional work environments like large corporations.

Today, the wave of Service Design seems to have subsided. Even though it could be a reason for disappointment, it actually makes happy. Wherever I look, people talk about touchpoints and customer journeys. Some even create service blueprints whithout ever having heard the term „Service Design“. The methods and mindsets of Service Design have seeped into disciplines and are now being used by entrepreneurs, product managers, agile coaches and facilitators of any kind. That is a good thing. A really, really good thing. Our re:publica workshop for sure had an impact, even though we had a different outcome in mind. Ironically, that is the essence of Service Design. No matter what hypothesis you start with, reality will show you the way to the goal.


Workshop Guide:
Service Design in 60 Minutes

For anyone who wants to replicate our workshop, here is the complete script. The workshop is – well, you guessed it – one hour long and intended to teach the basic principles of Service Design to people of any background. It is a nice activity for conferences, company events or innovations bootcamps of any kind. In theory, it can be facilitated for an infinite number of participants. The only preparation it requires are prints-outs of the worksheets for each participant. Here comes the workshop script:

Introduction (8 minutes)

Welcome: Welcome to the workshop Service Design in 60 minutes. Whether you’re involved in services or physical products, this workshop is an excellent opportunity to understand the intricacies of service design and apply them to your field.

Service vs. Product: Unlike products, which are often meticulously designed by engineers, services frequently evolve somewhat „organically“. This is where service design comes into play, providing a structured approach to design and systematically improve a service.

Customer Experience vs. Service System: When you think of „service“, you may think about the grumpy waitress or the anyoing customer experience of your phone provider. Those experiences clearly are part of a service. They are usually one element in a larger service system. To be precise, Service Design deals with those service systems.

Example: Think about car-sharing for example. Car2Go is a well-known car-sharing service in cities like Berlin, Hamburg, or Munich. While the car itself is a product, the service encompasses much more: processes (how users find and pay for a car), a business model (revenue generation and pricing), infrastructure (charging stations, parking models), and numerous touchpoints (the app for booking the car, a touch device in the car). Service Design addresses all these aspects.

Complexity in Services: The rise in popularity of an integrated approach in service design is primarily due to the increasing complexity of services, especially those that blend digital and analog touchpoints. A holistic approach is essential to be innovative, market-responsive, and to develop services that genuinely matter to people.

Getting ready to design: Theoretical knowledge is valuable, but practical experience is better. In this workshop, you (the participants) will develop a new service hands-on and thereby familiarize yourself with the design process. Please form groups of 3 to 4 people and grab a pack of worksheets.

The Design Process (47 minutes)

The Mission:
Design a service that helps people live a healthier life.

Excercise 1: Interview (6 minutes)

We start with an exploration to understand user needs and problems. Conduct interviews within your group, focusing on topics like relaxation, stress reduction, work-life balance, healthier eating, more exercise, and improved sleep. Avoid overly emotional topics for this exercise.

Excercise 2: Problem Definition (4 minutes)

What have you learned about the needs of your interviewee(s)? Focus on precisely articulating the problem and its context. Choose one primary issue to solve, concentrating on the most crucial aspect, even if it means ignoring others. Identify the desired outcome and obstacles preventing it.

Excercise 3: Ideation (5 minutes)

Now brainstorm as many ideas as possible to address the defined problem. When it comes to ideation, more is more!

Excercise 4: Elevator Pitch (7 minutes)

Share your ideas within the team and choose one or two to refine. Turn them into a concise pitch that can be delivered during an elevator ride.

Excercise 5: Customer Journey (11 minutes)

With an understanding of the needs, the problem, and a basic conceptual idea, we now move into the bird’s eye view to look at the service. Customer Journey Maps describe the complete service process from the user’s perspective, focusing on phases and touchpoints. The first stage is usually the awareness stage, where the user stumples across the service. How does that happen? And what happens next? Imagine a customer journey for your service by walking with your customer through all touchpoints of the experience.

Excercise 6: Feedback & Iteration (14 minutes)

Pair up with a neighboring team to present them your service idea. Use the elevator pitch for a general overview and the Customer Journey Map for detailed questions. Ask them for feedback and think about possible improvements.

Wrap-up (5 minutes)

Service design isn’t exclusive to professional service designers; it’s applicable in any field involving human interaction.

Key Lessons:

  1. Engage with users and base your designs on qualitative data to address real problems.
  2. View services from a bird’s-eye view (Customer Journey) and a detailed perspective (interaction at individual touchpoints).
  3. Never settle for the first version. Embrace iteration as a principle.
  4. Apply these methods across various fields.

Appreciate the structured process and how much can be achieved in a short time.