Designing the moments that matter

Nov 3, 2021 | Blog

Design thinking, experience design or service design. Sometimes our playing field seems to be dominated by jargons. Pretty similar terms but what do these words actually mean? And why is it worth to understand?

The boundaries between physical products and services are blurring and, in most cases, one doesn’t exist without the other. We need to think in systems and understand the ecosystem in which services and physical products operate. The ultimate goal is to create great experiences that your customers are willing to pay.

A good definition of service design in “This is service desing thinking” book by Marc Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider is as follows:

“Service Design is a practical approach to the creation and improvement of the offerings made by organizations. […] It is a human-centered, collaborative, interdisciplinary, iterative approach which uses research, prototyping, and a set of easily understood activities and visualization tools to create and orchestrate experiences that meet the needs of the business, the user, and other stakeholders.”

When it comes to design thinking, it’s more about a mindset, a way of thinking. It is about using a process of diverging and converging to solve a wide range of problems. Service Design is mostly practiced by designers. It makes use of more elaborate and extensive design methods, focuses on the development of services and can directly impact all touchpoints of an organisation. Applying tools is important and business objectives are service related, like increasing NPS or reducing churn.


Principles of Service Design:

In their book, This is Service Design Doing, Marc Stickdorn and Jakob Schneider, collected six key characteristics of the service design approach.

These six principles of service design doing are:

Human-centered: Consider the experience of all the people affected by the service.

Collaborative: Stakeholders of various backgrounds and functions should be actively engaged in the service design process.

Iterative: Service design is an exploratory, adaptive, and experimental approach, iterating toward implementation.

Sequential: The service should be visualized and orchestrated as a sequence of interrelated actions.

Real: Needs should be researched in reality, ideas prototyped in reality, and intangible values evidenced as physical or digital reality.

Holistic: Services should sustainably address the needs of all stakeholders through the entire service and across business.


Business Impact of Service Design:

McKinsey & Company conducted a research on what they call ‘the most extensive and rigorous research’ into design. They assessed 300 publicly listed companies and measured how well they integrated design in their company and compared that with their financial performance.

Companies that put design at their core increase revenues and shareholder returns at nearly twice the rate of their peers!


Service design is a mindset, having outside-in approach and passion for the customer and improvement. It is also a tool set, helps you to explore possible problems and opportunities. Service design is also a structured process and a cross-disciplinary language with the customer at its center, breaking silos and with the customer at its center, and stimulates collaboration between departments.



A real story: Designing experience through empathy

Healthcare machine producers are using high technology, but at the same time this technology can create unpleasant experience for patients. Doug Dietz is an industrial designer, working for GE healthcare since more than 20 years. Once he noticed a little girl who was crying on her way to a scanner that was designed by him. Doug suddenly saw the situation with the eyes of the girl. “The room itself is kind of dark and has those flickering fluorescent lights”, he remembers in his TED talk. He adds “that machine that I had designed basically looked like a brick with a hole in it.”

Observing how terrified this girl was, he understood that problem was not about the machine itself but the experience these kids with the service. Then he went to work and initiated a service design study. They included creative people from a local children’s museum, kids and doctors in addition to hospital workers whose job it is to help families get through a scan.

In the pediatric department of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, with some paint, scents, lights and a little imagination, the scan rooms were turned into adventures. Colorful paintings were applied to the outside of the machine and to every surface in the room, covering the floor, walls, and all of the equipment. Even the hospital staff was dressed in costume. Imagine, one room is an ocean and the scanner is a submarine, in another room the scanner becomes a tent in a camping experience.The new service have been hugely popular with kids so they want to visit the hospital again even they dont need to.

What is revolutionary about this wonderful story is, instead of focusing on the technical side of the problem, as most engineers of these types of machines normally do, the Dietz team focused on improving the experience for the patients.
The “Adventure Series” scanner by GE is a great example of applying empathy and creativity in solving problems.

You can read the full story on IDEO website:

You can also watch Doug Dietz’s Ted talk:




Developing Key Insights


The original read is on

First insights are often generated based on patterns you find while you are collecting data,building your research wall, or codifying your data. It helps to write down initial assumptions, hypotheses, and intermediate insights at any stage of the research process and then critically reflect on them using your collected research data. If you don’t have enough data to critically reflect on an assumption, use this as a starting point for another fieldwork session and collect more data. Design research is iterative!

Key insights help researchers to summarize and communicate their main findings. They should be built on research data and supported by raw data, such as quotes, photos, and audio and/or video recordings. Use indexing to keep track of the raw data that supports your key insights. Key insights should be carefully phrased as they will serve as points of reference for the further design process. You might use them as the basis for ideation or later on to evaluate ideas, concepts, and prototypes.

There are many ways to formulate insights, and which framework makes sense will depend on the research data and the aim of your project.


Step-by-step guide


  1. Prepare and print out data Key insights are normally created iteratively together with data collection to gain a quick overview of your research data and to formulate further research questions, hypotheses, or assumptions. Use your research wall or prepare your research data by printing out key pictures, writing out great quotes, visualizing audio recordings or videos as quotes or screenshots, and putting out your collected artifacts. Prepare the room with materials, such as paper, sticky notes, pens, and of course your research data, as well as existing personas, journey maps, or system maps. Also, think about who you should invite to develop key insights.
  2. Write initial insights Go through your research data and write down initial insights based on your research findings or patterns you find within your data. If you work in teams, split up into subgroups of    2–3 participants and list initial insights based on your research. In this first step, it is important to document many potential insights; in the following step, you’ll merge them and prioritize them to create a limited number of key insights.
  3. Cluster, merge, and prioritize Hang up your insights on a wall and cluster similar ones next to each other. You can merge similar insights or rephrase them to make clear that they are different. Then try to prioritize them, for example, from a customer’s perspective: which of these have the biggest impact on the overall customer experience?
  4. Link key insights to data Key insights should always be based on solid research data. Link your key insights to your research data (e.g., by using an indexing system). When you present your key insights, it helps if you add some of your research data to back them. If possible, prefer first-level constructs as evidences for your key insights, such as photos, videos, or quotes from real people.
  5. Find gaps and iterate Are you missing some data for your key insights? Use these gaps as research questions and iterate your research to fill the gaps with data. Also, consider inviting real customers or employees to review your insights and give feedback on them.
  6. Follow-up Document your progress with photos and write a summary of your key insights. Support each key insight with at least 2–3 pieces of evidence from your research data. If you have more, use an indexing system to link your insights to all the underlying data.

If you want to learn more about cases where Alterna CX Voice of Customer solution was used for service design, contact us at


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