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Service design and differentiation

Service design Service has different meaning in different situations. Good service is both the friendly face at the desk, or an attentive waiter engaging the customer with conversation making someone feel welcome. In other situations, good service is just doing the job with no hassle or 'no service', for instance in utility markets where customers just want electricity or water delivered without needing to 'build a relationship' with the supplier.

Service design is about understanding the customer journey, and tailoring a service plan to make the customer feel comfortable, confident and cared for on all points of the journey.

We look after you

Service is the feeling of being looked after - getting what you want without hassle. We describe this as the "We look after you" (WLAY) feeling defines many premium service products, from first class travel to bespoke tailoring, service is related to comfort, confidence and feeling cared for.

However, in a self-service world, service also refers to the ability to buy and shop without being disturbed, where the best service is 'no-service' in that service from a person only happens when things fail or when the customer bumps against a rule they don't like or can't get around (there is a strong correlation for dissatisfaction with having to use customer service).

Good service is therefore also responsive, accurate and fast and, in general 'no-service' type service is also good business. Instead of keeping customers waiting in a queue, more checkouts are opened, customers go through faster, but also the business makes money more quickly and increase their potential throughput.


Service as differentiated products

Understanding the type of service a customer is looking for at different parts of the journey is central to service design. The customer journey follows the customer through all the contact and decision points to identify bottlenecks, concerns and issues to streamline and standardise service requirements.

Different levels of service also typically come with different costs. Contact and engagement take time, and more person-to-person service adds cost. Will a customer pay extra for telephone support, or will online or chat support be sufficient for the price?

Service design can then also be used as a way of differentiating products and segmenting different market needs and use cases. Premium service in the travel industry is more expensive, but leaves customers feeling more pampered. However, many people will forego higher service standards for functional performance, such as arriving on time or travelling at low cost.

Getting the mix of service elements tuned and focused to customer needs involves fully seeing the customer journey, through the eyes of the customer. It involves measuring the trade-offs customers are looking for, with tools like conjoint analysis or MaxDiff. And once up and running it requires monitoring the sense of "We look after you" through on-going satisfaction measurement.


For help and advice on working out a service strategy contact

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