New research into the use and effectiveness of service design within UK organisations suggests service design is poorly understood, with 38% of respondents saying they did not know what it is.
The research, carried out by service design consultancy Code Computerlove, involved a survey of 1002 business leader respondents, whose roles spanned “business consultants, product consultants, strategy consultants or director, head, manager or lead across procurement, research, design, strategy, transformation, marketing and IT”.
Colin Preston, Code Computerlove product and service design director, explains that as the consultancy looked to solidify its own service design offering, it found that there was “no consistency” across the industry in defining the discipline.
Prompted by these findings, Code commissioned Censuswide to carry out the survey, which took place from 21 – 27 February 2023.
Questions focused on five areas: “how service design is defined, how much investment and time is allocated to service design initiatives, how is the impact of service design measured, who is responsible for implementing service design and the key factors when choosing service design providers”.
Establishing a definition and managing expectations
Beyond the 38% of respondents that stated they did not know what service design was, of the remaining 62% who gave some definition, “only 3% matched our definition of service design”, says Code.
The survey defines service design as “a human-centred approach that aims to improve services across multiple touchpoints, taking into account the end user and the organisation’s people, technology, and processes”.
In the research, the studio writes that these statistics “underscore the need for clarity, education and a concerted effort to inform organisations about the value and potential of service design”.
A lack of investment, both in terms of time and monetary allocation, was shown to be another problem.
While 39% of survey respondents stated that they were investing up to £50k on a service design project, and a further quarter allocating up to £100k, these numbers fall far short of the £500-800k which Code states as the average cost to reach a minimal viable product (MVP), according to its own experience.
According to Code, “the primary issue with such budgets is that they focus more on discovering issues than implementing the necessary changes and enabling long-term change”.
The consultancy states that more attention needs to be given to the “facilitating and execution of ideas”.
The report says that when businesses commission service design, there is an expectation to see change “within 2 weeks – 3 months”.
In contrast, Preston says that “due to the complexity and nature of change, impact can take much longer to realise”.
This contrast, he says, “can have an adverse effect on securing advocacy and support for service design”.
Measuring impact to gain buy-in
The research also found a lack of understanding around how the success of service design can be evaluated.
The survey found that 40% of respondents “admit not knowing their service design projects’ impact”, while 15% said they did not measure impact at all.
Of those who did measure impact, there were different approaches to doing so, with many respondents only focusing on some of the necessary metrics, according to Code.
Customer satisfaction was used by 40% of respondents to measure the success of projects, which Code says “neglects other vital dimensions contributing to service design projects’ success”.
Research findings also showed “an inward focus on team-related metrics”, with team efficiency and team effectiveness used by 34% and 30% of respondents.
Code adds that while providing “valuable insights”, these metrics still present “a limited perspective” on success: “Success measures should encompass a broader scope, including the effects on customers, employees and overall business performance”.
According to Code “impact measures must be in place to gain buy-in from board-level executives, secure higher budgets, and fully capitalise on the potential of service design.”
“Ownership” of service design
Elsewhere it states, “ownership” of service design within an organisation was another problem identified by the research.
Only 5% of survey respondents said they had a dedicated service design owner and 10% have no specific person or role assigned as the primary responsibility for service design.
The consultancy highlights a gap in knowledge within organisations, to “identify the individuals or roles best suited to oversee and drive service design efforts”, and suggests that further skills and experience may be required for individuals to “effectively lead or champion service design within their organisations.”
Silos and sprint cycles
The research also points towards “service design as primarily happening within product teams and usually in sprint cycles”, rather than being applied holistically across business areas.
Code says that silos often found within organisations “exacerbate” this need for service designers.
Preston says that he hopes the research will help both those tasked with implementing service design as well as businesses looking to embark on service design initiatives and believes a “standardisation of expectation” will help the discipline be valued.
Like with UX a few years ago, he says, “where people [didn’t] want to commission UX research because they didn’t see the value of it; we’re at risk of that happening with service design”.
All images courtesy of Code Computerlove