5by5: The New Language of Service Design, Bernadette Geuy

Interview with Bernadette Geuy, User Experience Design Lead at University of California, Berkeley

by Thomas Brandenburg


Service designers need to be able to translate and show how a Return on Experience (ROE) connects to a business case with a Return on Investment (ROI), and is technically feasible.

1. Why do you think there had not been a shared definition of service design? Do you think it is important to have one, especially for an in-house discipline?

There is not a shared definition of service design in part because it is a relatively new discipline in the U.S. To increase awareness, it is important to talk about service design with in-house and external clients, to use terms like touchpoints and journeys, and to find ways to showcase its transformative value. I find it helpful to explain how service design builds on user experience design, which people are more familiar with, and with a more expansive end-to-end service perspective.


2. What language (key words or phrases) do you like to use to explain service design to an audience who is not familiar with it?

Given the opportunity to explain Service Design, I use visual images like journey and experience maps to talk about how services are experienced by end users, and how they encounter touchpoints along the way to reach their goals. Service owners are oriented around business processes and don’t generally think holistically about customer journeys, especially if there are handoffs to other parts of the organization. Seeing an experience map enhances empathy within the organization and helps to create a shared mental model of the complete end-to-end customer experience.

3. Service design is often interchanged with systems design, user experience or design thinking. Do you think that is an issue?

None of these design methodologies exist in isolation and I employ all of them. Design, at its core, is about problem solving, and you have to take into consideration that services exist in the context of systems—ecosystems of people, technology, policies, market places, and across organizational silos. You can’t ignore the interplays within and across systems when designing solutions. A skilled service designer will think in terms of systems, and in researching and mapping experiences across a service journey they will account for the underlying systems relationships. Success, in the form of an adopted solution, is predicated on a designer’s ability to engage stakeholders and sponsors in Design Thinking, and their ability to appropriately and convincingly communicate value to decision makers.


4. Are there any overused or misused terms that may be robbing service design of credibility?

A way that designers lose credibility is not by overusing or misusing service design terms, but by failing to communicate value in ways that business and technical audiences can understand. A great design that promises significant service improvements is rarely immediately actionable. A designer’s language use, and advocacy on behalf of end users, may not be that compelling to sponsors, service owners, or technologists. Service designers need to be able to translate and show how a Return on Experience (ROE) connects to a business case with a Return on Investment (ROI), and is technically feasible.

5. How might you see the language of service design being changed or evolving for people in business, especially since they traditionally don’t have a design background?

Being able to translate the value of design across the disciplines of business and technology is a big opportunity area for service designers. Design, business and technical people have trained for and are responsible for different aspects of an organization’s success. They each have different drivers and success metrics. Connecting designs to the elements of a business, case and providing evidence in support of improved brand value, and the impact on revenue growth or loss, as well as the technical feasibility, can make or break if a service design change is actualized.

Do you have any last thoughts you would like to share with our readers on new language of Service Design?

A big insight I learned from Dave Gray, co-founder of Xplane, is that Service Design is in effect Change Management, and that to significantly impact services delivery you must have sponsorship from the highest levels of an organization to cut across silos. In other words, working at a grassroots level and evangelizing cross-cutting service design changes, is nearly impossible without a mandate from a C-level champion, as well as funding to support the design and delivery efforts.


Read other 5BY5s, The New Language of Service Design