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Engineer, do you know service design?

An engineer who knows service design can produce unexpected added value in traditional and technical fields where service design is still only breaking through as a development concept.


Petri Kähärä

projektiasiantuntija, yrittäjyys ja liiketoiminnan uudistaminen
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 12.05.2023

Service design is a development method that focuses on creating additional value for a company by understanding the customer. Service design is suitable for all industries, but as an engineer myself, I dare claim that engineers may benefit from it the most.

Recently, I provided consulting in service design for Haaga-Helia’s Kinesis project. Kinesis is a program where Haaga-Helia’s specialists assist companies in advancing their innovations. The program runs for approximately six months and aims to make a lasting impact on the companies’ culture of innovation by strongly integrating service design into their development toolset.

Dear engineer, please read the whole article before continuing your work

The approach in service design is customer-centric and aims to create a better customer experience. In modern markets where customers expect more immersive experiences, mere contact with the customer is no longer sufficient to create a product or service that will make an impact.

Creating a customer service experience requires understanding the customer, and this is where service design comes in. The method can be used to refine an existing service or develop new services or products. In designing the service, the focus is on a comprehensive and customer centric understanding of the product or service.

To reap the most efficiency from the service design, apply the method throughout the development process. Early adaptation creates every engineer’s wet dream – high-quality and market loved products and services.

Repeat, repeat, this is an iterative process

There are generally three to seven stages in the service design process, but they all progress with the same core idea – to create better services.

Service design always begins with research, as the goal is to create a better customer experience. This involves researching customer needs, desires, behaviour, service pathways, and other themes related to the service and customer. Good research is the foundation and the beginning of excellent results.

Ideation follows research. What does the data tell us? Where and how can it be utilized? If research does not yield any results, then it is redone in a slightly different way. Iteration is an essential part of service design. If the phase that is under work does not progress, it is always possible to return to the previous stage or restart everything. By making changes and trying again, the iterative work will always take the design forward.

Evaluation, but only after ideation

The goal of ideation is to produce raw ideas for developing the service without strict filtering. During the ideation stage, ideas should not be judged. Any creator who channels ideas straight from the soul, will get discouraged by negative feedback, and will no longer produce or be able to share thoughts generously.

Evaluation is done safely after creation. Continuous iteration between the ideation and evaluation stages efficiently eliminates less functional ideas. In the evaluation stage, small prototypes or experiments are made from the ideas. Based on feedback, the ideas are either rejected or refined into a product. At each stage of service design, stakeholder involvement, such as customers, funders, employees, etc., is beneficial. Feedback must be collected widely because implementing a dysfunctional idea is significantly more expensive than creating new ones.

Every service design process should be implemented as part of daily and normal business. Successful service design generates more profitable business, but it can also generate, for example, social, ecological, or technological value, depending on the goals set at the beginning of the process.

When launching a new service, everyone selling or producing it must thoroughly internalize the service. A seamless implementation is promoted by the commitment of stakeholders, especially service producers, during the entire service design process.

The ultimate goal is customer loyalty

Customer satisfaction is the least that is expected from companies, but it does not necessarily bring the customer back. A company that provides exceptional service creates customer loyalty and obtains returning customers, which increases the value received from one customer.

A company that creates an exciting customer experience, conveys its customers to sacrifice their own time, effort, and social capital for the sake of the company, and spontaneously do the most powerful act of marketing – they sincerely recommend the company.

A service-focused company can create a clear differentiation factor with its service culture and claim its rightful position in the market by knowing its customers thoroughly.

An engineer who knows service design can produce unexpected added value in traditional and technical fields where service design is still only breaking through as a development concept. Service design is better internalized and commonly used in sectors where the customer is close, such as the hotel and tourism sector, restaurants, and creative and commercial sectors.

Engineer, why wouldn’t you throw yourself into service design and start creating more value already today? You can start your journey by reading the following recommendations.

Recommended reading on service design

Stickdorn, M. & Schneider, J. 2012. This Is Service Design Thinking. John Wiley Sons Inc.

Reason, B. et al. 2016. Service Design For Business. John Wiley Sons Inc.

Downe, L. 2020. Good Services: How to Design Services that Work. Laurence King Publishing.