Design Service Design

Tiina Toskovic’s A different view on service design: The perspective of the participant

Summary

Service design brings together service providers and end-users to co-design services that are valuable from both the business and the user perspective. The existing research of the field revolves around the experiences of service designers, yet service design projects always occur in co-operation with end-users and employees of the client organization. Little is known of the perception that these participants have of service design, and of the factors that affect their participation. Tapping into this perspective could help conduct successful service design projects, and assist in constructing a complete theoretical picture of service design.

This thesis aims at creating novel understanding of the perspective that participants of a service design project have of service design, its process, and the challenges and enablers related to it. This vision is pursued by means of a qualitative single-case study within a service design project between a Finnish service design agency and a telecom operator. The study builds upon a theoretical literature review, which defines service design based on its nine most significant characteristics, sketches a service design process and identifies 44 factors that affect a service design project.

Based on the study, service design participants seem to highlight the active role of the client organization during a service design project, and the project is considered to begin with an exploratory in-house phase. Furthermore, many of the identified challenges (12) and enablers (10) of service design relate to the organizational sphere. The concept of service design has, from the participant perspective, remained vague, and is often confused with digital service development. Service design is seen to materialize in customer-centered activities, yet customer-centeredness acts rather as a mindset for self-reflection than as the pervasive core of the process.

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Based on this study, it is evident that the participant perspective increases the depth of the current understanding of service design as a research area and a field of practice. However, more research from diverse contexts is needed in order to form a complete view of the perspective. This research, in turn, requires a solid theoretical foundation and a more unified understanding of the designer-perspective of service design.

 

Introduction to the study

The first section of this thesis acts as an introduction to the study. The section presents the background and the motivation of the thesis, defines the research problem and objectives, as well as discusses the scope of the study. Finally, the section introduces the structure of the thesis.

For the last four decades, the share and significance of the service market has constantly grown (Honkatukia et al., 2014); in 2015, services already formed over 70% of the Finnish national economy (Ministry Of Employment And The Economy, 2015). Due to the increasing competition over service users, service providers have realized the importance of designing services that truly match the needs of their current and potential customers (Moritz, 2005; Saco and Goncalves, 2008).

One increasingly popular approach for bringing the user perspective into service development is service design. This design-derived field emerged some 15 years ago (Kimbell, 2009), and has since been recognized not only by private companies but also by governmental actors (see e.g. Ministry Of Employment And The Economy, 2011). In practice, service design acts as a facilitative platform that brings together the service providers and users to co-design services that are valuable from both the business and the user perspective. Consequently, service design has been praised to offer, for instance, robust competitive advantage (Miettinen et al., 2011; Moritz,2005), high customer retention, and larger profit margins (Moritz, 2005).

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Due to the novelty of the approach, the research into service design has mainly focused on methodology as well as the applicability and dissemination of the service design mindset and way of working. These themes have mostly been discussed by designers for designers: conveying the practical experiences to others in the field has received considerable attention within the service design literature.

What the service design research currently lacks, is the perspective of service design project participants, such as representatives of client organizations or service endusers.

Little is known of the challenges that these persons face during a service design process – if they consider it a process, at all – or of the factors that enable them to take part in the action. Furthermore, no factual understanding exists of the comprehension that these participants have of the essence of service design. In brief, service design, while advocating the user perspective to other fields, lacks a vision of its own user-centeredness.

Displaying little interest towards the participant perspective is no minor flaw, as service design projects should always be a team effort; all the participants affect not only what happens during the project, but also the outcomes and the impact of it.
Thus, tapping into the participant perspective may prove valuable for carrying out service design projects that truly meet the needs of their participants. Finally, with a deeper understanding of the world of the participants, service design agencies can more effectively disseminate service design thinking as well as more accurately direct their sales argumentation.

This thesis aims at creating novel understanding of the perspective that participants of a service design project have of service design, its process, and the challenges and enablers related to it. This vision is pursued by means of an empirical single-case study that builds upon a theoretical literature review. The case project of the thesis took place during the fall 2015, and concerned the development of online selfservice for a Finnish telecom operator. During the project, co-design among the service designers and the representatives of the operator was emphasized, which makes the project an interesting source of material for this thesis.

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Source: enclosed thesis from Tiina Toskovic

A different view on service design: The perspective of the participant
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