#design:misunderstood #service-design #strategy - 5 mins read

Seven skills a service designer brings to your business


Our Design:Misunderstood series works to dispel outdated myths and provide clarity surrounding the strategic power of various design practices in a modern product environment.

Design in a product environment has come a long way in the past 10-15 years. Like many other areas within technology, the discipline has organically evolved, and redefined over time.

If you know the difference between product design and service design, you’re halfway there. But did you know a service designer doesn't just create blueprints?

Here are 7 key strategic skills a service designer will bring to your business above the outputs you may have heard of.

Group facilitation 🗣️

A large part of a modern design practitioner's day-to-day activity is centered around drawing information out of different places from across a business, to document the as-is and the future opportunities from across not only digital products but the wider omni-channel service. Most of that information sits inside SMEs’ heads and as humans we store, access and communicate this information in infinitely different ways because we’re all different.

A service designer sits on a vast toolkit of different workshopping frameworks and methodologies to provide a level playing field for all these differing attendee styles’ and approaches’ to bring the information and ideation out in an orderly and digestible fashion.

But the frameworks won’t account for getting the best out of these different types of people. If you get any 10 people in a room, it’s fair to assume some will be exhausted, some will be stressed, some will be distracted, and some disengaged. It’s the job of a great facilitator to wrangle all these differing starting points and draw the same quality of content out of the room.

Cross-team empathy 👂

The previous point leads nicely onto point number two. A service designer won’t only be working with individual contributors from across a business. But vastly differing cohorts of teams who traditionally only get involved in ‘their part’ of the process, often missing key parts for the narrative to help them for the ‘why’ the ‘what’, or the ‘how’.

A service designer will strive to help a business socialise the information horizontally across teams at all touch points whether it’s inviting developers who aren’t used to seeing the problem space to research sessions or championing sharing outputs and outcomes to those more naturally involved in earlier stages of a discovery process for instance.

Building people and team bridges and putting everyone on the same page is so powerful in modern product development.

Stakeholder interviewing 🗒️

We’ve talked about group workshopping, but equally important in a service designer toolkit is 1 on 1 SME interviewing. When working through the ‘discover’ and ‘define’ stages of discovery, for instance, it’s vital to extract deep detail from specific areas.

It’s not just about detail, it’s about volume. A service designer will use methods to extract as much information as possible from a session whilst often synchronously documenting the insights on the fly. Ever tried to listen to someone pouring out information from their area of expertise whilst simultaneously translating the information into digestible snippets on the fly and trying not to disrupt their stream of thought? Trust me this is a powerful skill in itself and vital to help a team and a business get to the level of detail required to transform via insights.

Data analysis 🤓

It’s one thing to gather information from various qualitative and qualitative sources. But a service designer will help the people involved analyse and synthesise the data too. There is no point in performing divergent activities if it’s not followed by convergent activities to drill down towards insights to hang opportunities on.

Again back to cross-team working. Even if the service designer has extracted data that needs further clarity, they will pull the right conversations together to get to that key insight.

Strategic reasoning 🧠

Service design is a horizontal activity. It connects to touchpoints from right across a business's experience whether that be digital or physical. That breadth of reach naturally lends itself to the strategic thinker. It’s easy to get blinkered on one part of the business or customer experience and it’s a service designer's job to not only think big themselves but encourage those involved in the process to do the same.

The real power of a service design mentality isn’t delivering some outputs in the moment, but transforming how a business analyses and processes its now and later.

Storytelling & communication 📖

Realistically there will be key stakeholders and teams in a medium to large-sized business who can’t be involved in the day-to-day, but who will gain real value from being kept updated with key progress.

A service designer tends to have a natural proclivity towards being able to take a complex narrative and through various storytelling techniques, turn it into digestible soundbites from these sorts of occasions. And most importantly, tie it to the strategies and outcomes the different teams are interested in in their day-to-day.

This may seem like a soft skill that isn’t as powerful as some of the other points in this article but communication is often one of the most broken parts of a business either suffering from hyper-growth or bogged down in legacy siloed processes that have never transformed.

Agility & flexibility ↪️

With the best intentions, there is ALWAYS unforeseen change during even shorter programs of work. A service designer is a master of not only pivoting themselves but also bringing the team along the same journey.

This doesn’t mean being a pushover or simply a resource or delivering what they’re told. Quite the opposite. It’s just as likely that a service designer will uncover information themselves that can guide a different path and this is where we loop back to points above. Service design is an organic fluid process and as long as communication is strong, clear and honest, a business will always benefit from this mindset.

For businesses who have never worked in the Service Design space, the path to the ‘ah-ha!’ moment is normally quick following recurring and short-term proven value.

We'd love to tell you more about how our design leadership could accelerate your route to insight and ideation at both a tactical and strategic level.