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Peter March is a Senior Interaction Design Consultant in New York City, where he is part of the core leadership team of the Interaction Design Association and the Service Design NYC network. As a seasoned interaction designer, he has worked with a remarkably wide range of clients across multiple industries, including Hershey’s, Dannon, Merrill Lynch, Bank Of New York, Citibank, Discovery Channel, HP, Microsoft and Toyota.


I had a great experience the first time I took a class with Cooper Professional Education, so I was really looking forward to seeing how the company would approach its Service Design Immersive. Hosted at Designit’s New York headquarters in Brooklyn, the class was taught by two instructors, Tammy Su and Talli Pinhasi, who provided real-world examples from their experience in the field. It was especially helpful to hear how the concepts they taught could be applied to actual project work.

Overall, I think the class provided a good foundation for understanding the basic principles of service design and how to approach business challenges through the lens of service design. Furthermore, designers and user experience professionals who are tired of focusing on a single-client touchpoint will find it particularly valuable; the class demonstrates the importance of addressing the entire ecosystem of the customer experience, across all touchpoints, to meet all of the users’ needs. 

Here are six key takeaways:

If you really want to understand the customer’s world, talk to them in person and observe them in their natural environment. If you want to build an accommodating ecosystem that will stick, you need to understand the user’s pre-existing habits and behaviors. There is no substitute for face time with actual users living their actual lives. The more complex the experience you are trying to create, the more important it is to back up your design decisions with real user data.

Do not consider your project research complete until you have examined both the front-end and the back-end components of the customer’s experience. What is the daily experience of the staff tasked with providing a product or service? Do they have the tools they need to succeed? Input from back-end employees can sometimes get short-changed on website projects, but if you are designing a full service, they really need to participate in the conversation. If the website experience is great, but the retail experience is a disaster, you really haven’t created a great customer experience, have you?

Consider how you leverage different channels to provide the best user experience. Can it only be done online? Should some aspect of the experience only be done in person? Only by mail? Only by phone? It’s important to sort this out early in the process so you can design everything to work smoothly together. The user should be able to start and stop their interaction with a service from any channel with minimal disruptions. A service design approach can help you ensure that is actually the case.

Take the time to flesh out the difference between an employee and a partner. The lines can get blurry sometimes (for instance, what do you call an Airbnb host?), but knowing which is which helps you decide the right design choices to make.

Don’t stop at user personas. Create one or more user journeys for each persona as well. That will help you assess where the strengths, opportunities, or pain points are for each customer persona. Do user journeys for all your back-end personas as well to make sure they connect with the user journeys.

Create a service design blue print. The blueprint documents how a service can change over time and the processes needed to support these changes at different times in the “story” of the user’s interaction. It’s a natural next step from user journeys and helps you make the experience a bit more “real life” so you can start creating actual project timelines, make staffing decisions to support the product or service, and define project deliverables.

I consider the class two days well spent. Service design is now a popular topic of conversation in the UX community, but we need to get more practitioners trained in service design tools and techniques. This class is a great way to start to addressing that need so we can have smarter conversations with our clients about what it takes to deliver great user experiences for customers, no matter where they are or which devices they are using. There are a lot of sticky problems in the world today, and if more of us start viewing them with a service design mindset, we might be able to come up with some great solutions.