Over the years, the taxonomy of design has grown more and more detailed and nuanced. In a previous CMSWire article, I wrote about the relationship between user experience and customer experience design.

Yet, there is a third design discipline that has grown in popularity in recent years called service design. In this article I will introduce what it is and explain why without it, there cannot be a good customer experience.

What Is Service Design?

  • Customer Experience Design is the creation of and end-to-end process allowing customers to find, use and maintain an offering according to or beyond their expectations.
  • Service Design concentrates on making sure that all pieces that need to fall into place for a great customer experience are being orchestrated by the organization that makes the offering. This includes things like policies, org design, procedures, standards and technical infrastructure.

Customer experience design and service design are both human-centered design approaches. As such, they have the same goal of putting humans in the center of all considerations, allowing them to achieve their objectives in an effective, efficient and comfortable manner.

In the same way that customers need to be included and understood, those internal staff members that are involved with the efforts needed to provide the customer experience have to be included and understood as part of service design.

To accomplish that, both approaches share a common set of methods that, in the case of customer experience design, are utilized toward customers; and in the case of service design, toward internal staff.

Related Article: Using Customer Journey Maps and Jobs to Be Done for a Better Customer Experience

Common Set of Methods for Experience, Service Design

These methods include:

  • Stakeholder Mapping: Stakeholders are those people likely to influence or be impacted by an offering. A stakeholder map helps to understand and shows what stakeholder groups are involved, which ones are more critical than others, and what their needs are.
  • Interviews: Gaining understanding and insights through a directed conversation about a topic.
  • Surveys: Gaining understanding and insights through collecting answers to a mix of qualitative and quantitative questions about a topic.
  • Workshops: Group settings where a moderator leads a discussion and activities with participants on a topic and work out a joint result or conclusion.
  • Journey Mapping: A depiction of the various flows people go through on their way of accomplishing objectives. A journey map also covers the touchpoints that they encounter, including artifacts they use or other persons with whom they interact. In service design, an enriched type of journey map called a Service Blueprint documents the inner workings of the owned organization on two levels:
    • Front Stage: Things that customers directly experience as a touchpoint; for example, a nurse who draws blood during a medical exam.
    • Back Stage: Things that customers do not directly experience; for example, the lab that analyzes the blood.
  • Iterative Prototyping: Translating the understanding and insights about people and their needs into a concept that can be empirically tested to identify further optimization possibilities.

Crafting the Training Experience

Take an example of a team that is tasked with providing design thinking training. One of the things the team may think about is the customer experience it wants to create for training participants. That may include:

Learning Opportunities

  • Learning about the training offering and its value.
  • Having an easy way to select and book training.
  • Having a good learning experience.
  • Getting a certificate to be proud of and that can be shared on LinkedIn.
  • Having the ability to provide feedback.

This list is incomplete but demonstrates two things:

  1. The items are in sequence, mapping the journey of the participants from start to finish.
  2. The focus is on things that are important to the participants — and because they’re important to participants, they’re important for the team providing the training.

How might that team craft the training program to deliver the envisioned customer experience? As mentioned above, a service blueprint considers both front and back-stage elements that are required for provisioning the user experience. The graph below shows how both elements address the end experience:

Customer Experience

Front Stage

Back Stage

Learning about the training offering and its value


Awareness campaign conveyed through intranet, emails, town halls, direct outreach from managers


Work with HR to define knowledge and skills to be conveyed

Identify who needs training by when

Create information and deliver to corporate communications and staff managers

Having an easy way to select and book training


Intranet website with all necessary information, event booking, live chat and FAQ


Collect registrations, book training venue, catering, and dining & networking venue

Send booking confirmation and reminders to training participants

Having a good learning experience

Competent and entertaining trainer

Technical equipment (hi-res projector, interactive whiteboard, etc.) and onsite support

Catering with options accommodating various diets

Training materials

After-event dining and networking options

Select and brief trainer on objectives

Negotiate prices for venues and services

Have onsite support on stand-by

Print name cards and training material

Provide link to digital training material

Order food considering dietary preferences of participants

Getting a certificate to be proud of and that can be shared on LinkedIn

Training certificate printed on parchment paper and as a digital badge

Print certificates, deliver to training venue

Create LinkedIn badges and send link to participants after end of training

Provide individual training status updates to HR and staff managers

Having the ability to provide feedback

Last 15 minutes of training reserved for in-person feedback

Follow-up email with a link to an online survey

Build 15 minutes into the agenda for gathering in-person feedback

Create online survey

Send email with survey link to participants

Analyze results and synthesize insights

Present and discuss insights with training team and executive sponsors

Determine and implement training improvement actions as needed

Each of the front and back-stage items — some analog, some digital — must be crafted and synchronized. The front-stage items are touchpoints directly experienceable by the training participants. The back-stage items are not directly experienceable by the attendees but rather enable the front-stage items and thus are essential for realizing the overall customer experience.

Related Article: Are UX and CX One and the Same?

Conclusion: Service Design's Integral to Customer Experience Design

The example shows that service design adds another layer of consideration to design, one that sheds a light on the internal processes and resources. With this holistic view, service design has always been integral to customer experience design — whether it was called out explicitly or not.

After all, the things that happen in the background, invisible to the customers, must be designed and orchestrated. In the end, all efforts need to be geared toward ensuring a stellar experience for everyone involved — inside and outside of the company providing the offering.