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What is a Service Design Agency and Why You Need One

What is a Service Design Agency and Why You Need One

Service design is all about creating experiences that are useful, enjoyable, and meaningful. As companies realise the importance of customer experience, service design agencies have become invaluable partners. This guide will teach you everything you need about service design agencies – what they do, why they matter, and how to choose the right one for your needs.

What is a Service Design Agency?

Brand Design Agency

A service design agency helps companies conceptualise, visualise, and orchestrate experiences that solve problems and provide customer value. Rather than focusing on graphic design or marketing, service design agencies concentrate on the complete end-to-end experience across multiple touchpoints.

The service design process aims to create services that are:

  • Useful – They solve a customer problem or meet a need
  • Usable – They are easy and intuitive for customers to use
  • Desirable – They provide pleasure and enjoyment
  • Findable – Customers can find what they need when they need it
  • Accessible – They are inclusive to various customer needs
  • Credible – They are trustworthy and reliable

Service design agencies help implement these ideals into company offerings.

Why are Service Design Agencies Important?

Service design agencies are crucial in helping companies shape experiences that create loyalty and value. Here are some of the key reasons they matter:

Drive Innovation

Service design agencies bring an outside-in perspective and help companies think creatively about improving customer and employee experiences. Their fresh perspective spurs innovation.

Optimise Complex Services

Well-designed services appear seamless to customers. Service design agencies uncover pain points in complex services and optimise the end-to-end journey.

Coordinate Delivery

Service design agencies orchestrate how services are delivered across channels. This integration creates consistency and synergy.

Build Employee Alignment

Service design agencies help align company culture, operations, and employees to deliver outstanding service. This internal alignment translates to better customer experiences.

Create Strategic Value

Well-designed services become a competitive advantage. Service design agencies create experiences that strategically differentiate and add value.

Improve Business Results

Excellent service design boosts customer lifetime value and drives growth. Service design agencies help improve business KPIs through better experiences.

The vital combination of customer-centricity, design thinking, and business strategy makes service design agencies indispensable partners.

Core Activities of Service Design Agencies

Full Service Design Agency Services

So, what exactly do service design agencies do? While activities vary by agency, some typical core activities include:

Research

Service design agencies conduct qualitative and ethnographic research to gain empathetic insights into customer needs and pain points. Research techniques may include interviews, journey mapping, observational studies, and focus groups.

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Ideation

Next, service design agencies run collaborative ideation workshops. They facilitate brainstorming sessions to generate ideas for better meeting customer needs.

Prototyping

Service design agencies prototype new service concepts quickly and cost-effectively. Prototypes allow ideas to be tested and refined before implementation.

Experience Design

Detailed experience design brings service concepts to life. Service design agencies map out end-to-end customer journeys and design how touchpoints work together.

Process Improvement

Behind the scenes, service design agencies analyse operational processes. They identify process changes needed to enable new services.

Employee Alignment

For successful execution, service design agencies align internal teams to the new vision. They may provide training on delivering exceptional experiences.

Measurement

Finally, service design agencies help implement metrics and feedback loops. This allows experiences to be continually optimised based on data.

This end-to-end approach allows service design agencies to transform service concepts into reality.

Service Design Agency Capabilities

Service design agencies offer broad capabilities to improve customer and employee experiences. Typical service design competencies include:

Customer Research: Ethnographic research, interviews, persona development, customer journey mapping, observation studies, focus groups

Ideation: Design sprints, co-creation workshops, ideation facilitation, hackathons, idea prioritisation

Prototyping: Service prototypes, experience prototypes, digital prototypes, rapid prototyping, prototype usability testing

Service Design: Service concept development, customer journey mapping, service blueprinting, ecosystem mapping, experience design

Touchpoint Design: Physical environment design, digital experience design, omnichannel integration, communication design

Process Design: Service operations optimisation, process mapping, capability assessment, organisational design

Employee Experience: Employee journey mapping, staff training, change management, culture alignment

Measurement: Customer feedback channels, CX metrics, satisfaction tracking, Net Promoter Score, operational analytics

This range of knowledge allows service design agencies to improve end-to-end customer and employee experiences thoroughly.

Benefits of Working with a Service Design Agency

Partnering with a service design agency provides many benefits, including:

Gaining an Outside Perspective

Service design agencies provide an objective outside-in view of your brand, services, and experiences. This avoids internal bias.

Accelerating Change

Service design agencies rapidly prototype and test new ideas. They help activate changes quickly.

Enhancing Innovation

Collaborating with service designers gives access to new frameworks, tools and creativity. This boosts innovation.

Optimising Experiences

Service design agencies upgrade experiences using best practices and human-centred design thinking.

Creating Differentiation

A well-designed service stands out from competitors. Service design agencies create strategic differentiation.

Driving Growth

Excellent experiences increase customer lifetime value. Service design drives revenue, market share, and growth.

Building Capabilities

The partnership facilitates knowledge transfer. Internal teams learn new skills and ways of thinking about service.

Risk Mitigation

Testing concepts first allows potential issues to be addressed early before launch. This reduces risk.

Working with specialists augments in-house capabilities and unlocks experience improvements.

How to Select a Service Design Agency

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Choosing the right service design agency is critical. Here are tips for selecting a service design partner:

Check Experience and Specialisation

Look for experience specifically in service design projects, not just general design. Specialisation in service design is ideal.

Review Case Studies

Evaluate case study examples that are similar to your service challenges. Gauge demonstrated impact.

Learn About Process

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Ask about the agency's service design process. A solid methodology is vital.

Assess Cultural Fit

The best partnerships have shared values and collaborative cultures—gauge fit.

Look for Thought Leadership

Thought leadership demonstrates mastery. Seek agencies to speak, write, and share insights.

Evaluate Awards

Relevant awards provide third-party validation of expertise. Awards in service design are ideal.

Meet the Team

Have potential team members present their experience and approach. Assess skills.

Compare Pricing Models

Understand the agency's pricing model – project-based, ongoing retainer, etc. Get price estimates.

Vetting agencies ensure you choose the right design partner to deliver remarkable outcomes.

Key Service Design Agency Trends

Service design continues to evolve. Here are some of the latest trends shaping service design agencies:

Increased Demand

As service design's value gains recognition, demand for agencies grows. More agencies offer specialised services.

Co-Creation Focus

Service design agencies increasingly co-create with customers and employees through sprints and workshops.

Digital Integration

Blending physical, digital, and virtual experiences into omnichannel services is a priority.

Operational Partnerships

Partnerships with operations consultants allow end-to-end design from customer experience to operations.

Focus on Measurement

Data utilisation, measurement plans, and continuous feedback loops take on greater importance.

New Innovation Methods

Innovative approaches like design thinking, agile, and lean startup transform service design.

Regional Expansion

Global demand sees service design agencies expand into new geographic markets.

Expect leading service design agencies to stay on the frontier of service innovation.

Key Metrics to Measure Service Design Success

How can you determine if your investment in service design is paying off? These key metrics provide tangible indicators:

  • Customer Satisfaction Scores: Are NPS, CSAT, or other metrics rising?
  • Brand Perception: Are brand health surveys showing improved customer perceptions?
  • Revenue Growth: Are revenues from service increasing over time?
  • Customer Retention: Is customer turnover and churn going down?
  • Service Usage: Are customers using the redesigned services more over time?
  • Operational Efficiency: Have operations costs or customer service burdens decreased?
  • Employee Engagement: Has staff satisfaction, retention, or NPS improved?
  • ROI Calculations: Do financial estimates show the investment paying back?

Tracking metrics demonstrate the business value delivered by service design. Agencies can help implement measurement plans.

Key Questions to Ask Service Design Agencies

Ask Questions

Engaging with a service design agency starts with asking the right questions during your RFP and agency selection process:

  • What is your service design process and methodology?
  • How will you uncover our customers' unmet needs?
  • How do you envision integrating service design into our existing business?
  • How will you measure the impact of your solutions?
  • What types of prototypes do you utilise to test concepts with customers?
  • How will you align our staff and operations to the new services?
  • What are some past examples of the business impact you've driven through service design?
  • How do you stay on top of the latest trends in service design?
  • Why should we select your agency over competitors?

Thoughtful questions will reveal agencies with the right approach, experience, and partnership fit.

Conclusion and FAQs

Service design agencies are increasingly important in driving business growth through better customer and employee experiences. As strategic partners, service design agencies unlock innovation, optimise complex services, coordinate delivery, and create differentiation.

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Choosing an agency with proven service design expertise provides access to human-centred design thinking and creativity. The result is improved customer satisfaction, brand perception, revenue growth, and business performance.

If you're considering a service design agency, leverage the guidance above to select the right partner. Focus on demonstrated service design specialisation, robust methodology, cultural fit, innovation capabilities, and business impact.

The investment will pay dividends in delighting customers and energising employees through experiences only possible through service design.

FAQs:

What does a service design agency do?

Service design agencies help companies research, visualise, orchestrate, and improve end-to-end customer and employee experiences across physical, digital, and other touchpoints. Their expertise focuses on the design of complete services.

When should you hire a service design agency?

Engage a service design agency when seeking outside expertise and creative thinking to enhance innovation, solve customer experience problems, improve satisfaction and retention, remove pain points, or gain strategic advantages through well-designed services.

How do service design agencies charge for their services?

Common service design agency pricing models include project-based fees, ongoing retainer relationships, hourly consulting rates, innovation workshops, and value-based pricing models tied to business impact.

What is an example of a service a design agency improved?

Service design agencies have redesigned experiences across many industries. Examples include reimagining patient healthcare journeys in hospitals, improving university student academic experience, and streamlining supply chain processes for manufacturers.

How can you measure the ROI of service design?

Analyse customer satisfaction, revenue growth, retention, brand perception, service usage, and operational costs before and after service design changes to quantify results and ROI. Surveys can also estimate willingness-to-pay improvements driven by service design.

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Stuart Crawford

Stuart Crawford is an award-winning creative director and brand strategist with over 15 years of experience building memorable and influential brands. As Creative Director at Inkbot Design, a leading branding agency, Stuart oversees all creative projects and ensures each client receives a customised brand strategy and visual identity.

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