Feelings first. Design second.

Chew Kok Yong & Lucie Liew


If you haven’t already heard, the latest buzzword of the design world is “Service Design”. Instead of simply creating great products, many industry forerunners like Alibaba and Google are trying to build a cohesive service eco-system. While the design discipline was theorised back in the early 1980s and was being practised, its rise to mainstream popularity came only after the emergence of the Experience era.

Product VS Service

Back in the day, product was only known to be tangible while service, intangible. However, in the last few years the lines between product and service have blurred. For example, food deliveries used to be a service. Consumers placed their order with a phone call and the restaurant would deliver. These days, most food deliveries are carried out through an app. The effectiveness of the app makes or breaks the consumer experience. Smart apps masquerade as both a product and a service while, companies don’t merely sell a product but they are also service providers.

Source: Unsplash

There are two aspects to service design. One could look at the bigger picture and develop a service design blueprint to link up every offering or simply, focus on refining a particular service offering. Despite the different agendas, both boil down to a singular thought – putting the user at the centre of the design.

Going beyond the framework

Unlike product and data, design is abstract. It cannot be defined by any hard-and-fast rule. Whether you’re doing CX, UX or service design, it is essential to have a single quality – empathy. Sometimes, walking in the shoes of your consumer is not enough.

Service design has to go beyond the paper play.It needs to stay true to consumers and consumerism, in reality. – Chew Kok Yong

How a consumer rates a service, is generally based on how they feel about it. Certain actions and nuances play a part to determine a positive or negative experience. Poet Maya Angelou once said that “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Like art, great design should have the ability to invoke emotions through your product/service.

A recent study shows that people now have more things to focus on, but they do so for shorter periods of time. Content that would capture widespread attention and lose it just as quickly. [1] In this information age, marketing gimmicks only enhance that core product for short spurts of time while service design aims to keep your consumers reeled in for the long run.

Source: Unsplash

Chinese hot pot chain – Hai Di Lao is Afternaut Co-founder, Chew Kok Yong’s favourite example of top-notch service design. Famous for their fancy handmade noodles, affable staff and free manicures, Hai Di Lao isn’t known for their food but outstanding hospitality. Despite the snaking long queues, diners never fail to leave feeling satisfied mentally and emotionally from the service. Hai Di Lao’s idea of “VIP treatment” outshines the product as their unique selling point. Not long after their phenomenal success, similar concepts of hotpot have mushroomed all over the island. However, Hai Di Lao has solidified its place as people’s choice. That’s service design at its peak.

Empowering the right people

Afternaut’s Lead Innovation Designer, Lucie Liew points out that you do not need to be a “certified” UX or service designer to draw up an effective blueprint.

Spend time to understand your business and consumer. You’ll be able to  do service design. – Lucie Liew

One of the biggest challenges of service design is how theorised blueprints reflect on actual business operations. Operational design is intrinsically linked to service design. Such on-the-ground experiences provide invaluable knowledge that can’t be foreseen. This is where qualitative research comes into play. Asking the right questions to your operational managers, your business development manager who possess years of insight, are unlikely resources (besides consumers) you could tap on.

Service design is like a master keycard. The service designer controls the experiences that consumers access to. – Chew Kok Yong.

The best kind of service should seem natural and effortless. It gives the power back to the consumers but only by design. It balances on a fine line to create a non-zero-sum game for both the business and consumer. If your product is designed well, consumers would naturally pick it up, with hardly any questions asked.

[1] https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-04/tuod-aoi041119.php

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