Whether you’re a medical clinic, a local café, restaurant, fashion retailer or a local council, the quality of your customers’ experience will always come down to the quality of your Service Design.

This is why the process of Service Design is so important.


Here, we outline exactly what Service Design is, how it works and why you need it, in short, digestible chunks. You can read our guide from top to bottom, or skip to a point that is most relevant for your needs.

  1. The 5 Principles of Service Design
  2. Why is Service Design a hot topic today?
  3. 6 Barriers to Service Design and how to overcome them
  4. 4 Ideas to Improve Your Healthcare Service Design  
  5. Defining the Patient Experience with Service Design 
  6. How Service Design Blueprints can help you improve your patients’ journey
  7. What is design thinking and how does it relate to service delivery?
  8. 10 Things Every Service Based Organisation Needs to Do to Improve their Customer Experience
  9. Designing services that deliver – Q & A with Katie Bowden
  10. Service design for the patient of the future

1.The 5 Principles of Service Design

5 priciples service designFor your service design to be successful, there are five core principles you need to follow:

1. Consider every user’s perspective

Design your services based on how they are experienced
Understanding every user’s expectations, preferences, values, beliefs and core decision making influences will enable you to provide a high standard of service that is truly customer-centric. 

2. Co-create

All stakeholder groups should be involved in the service design process.
Co-creation refers to the process in which all users are involved not just in the design of the solution, but also in the production and development of it too. 

3. Iterate the process

One of the main features of service design is not avoiding making mistakes but learning from them.
This is achieved by prototyping and testing. You can save a large amount of time and money if you test the customer experience before spending lengthy periods of time developing it.  

4. Visually communicate

In a collaborative team environment, it is more expressive to use visual aids than to rely purely on words.
Have your team use sketches, pictures, graphs, maps and prototypes where applicable. Visual tools enable the viewer to digest even the most complex of ideas. Through the use of visual aids, you can properly explain what you’re trying to achieve and make the information easier to remember.

5. Take a holistic approach

The entire environment in which the service exists and is delivered should be considered.
Holistic services look at the whole user journey and consider each person’s touchpoint – this includes staff usage as well as customer usage. 

 Read more here about utilising these 5 principles to form a solid foundation for successful service design initiatives.


2. Why is Service Design a hot topic today?

service design hotService Design is fast becoming a buzz word in the strategy world, but why? Let’s start by defining what it is.

Service Design is the activity of planning and organising people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service to improve not only the quality of the service but also the interaction between the service provider and its customers. It’s about giving value and getting results.

Service Design is strategic, holistic and collaborative and is both a creative and practical way to improve and innovate existing services and design new ones.

  • Modern consumers
    Customer expectations are rapidly changing. In today’s modern world, customers have become more tech-savvy and have the power to research and choose between endless competitors providing similar services. 

  • Cultural shifts
    Cultural changes and shifts in the business environment in recent years has increased the demand to deliver exceptional experiences. In response, service design is becoming key in the marketing and strategy department of many service providers. 

  • People-centric
    Service Design is about putting people at the centre of the design process and making experiences deliver what people actually want and need rather than what a service or organisation thinks they want and need. It’s about customising the wheel, not reinventing it. Empathy is critical. 

  • A New Era
    Services like AirBnB, Uber, Apple and Amazon have created a new era of value creation. Their use of transparency, speed, choice, customisation and feedback have resulted in their enormous success.  

  • Standing out
    In a busy market place, the best way you can make your organisation stand out is through customer satisfaction. Service Design guides organisations to find out who their users are, what their needs are and then improves the service accordingly. 

Consumers today expect more so services need to be able to reflect that. Find out more about Service Design Solutions here.


3. 6 Barriers to Service Design and how to overcome them

barriers_service_designThere’s no denying that service design will improve and innovate your existing Healthcare service or help you design new ones, but there may be barriers along the way. We look at how to approach these barriers with suggested solutions to overcome them.

Barrier 1: Complicated organisational structure and governance
More often than not there is multiple decision makers for individual projects and not enough accountability for solving actual problems.

Solution: Work out who you need to speak to in order to get things done and then work your way up the chain. Ensure there are owners and accountability for your services. 

Barrier 2: Resistance to change
When implementing service design the biggest barrier to getting anything done is people. You may come up against individuals who are resistant to change, both structurally and culturally.

Solution: Service design will probably be a new concept to some staff so make sure you explain exactly how it works, and why it works, so that they understand it and are happy to follow the methodology.  

Barrier 3: Siloed mentality
This can occur when several departments or groups within an organisation do not want to share information or knowledge with other individuals in the same organisation. This blocks collaboration, co-creation and ultimately innovation.

Solution: Communication within teams, organisations, departments and key stakeholders is essential to a smooth implementation of service design. Use multidisciplinary teams and an organisation-wide approach to implement change. 

Barrier 4: Time and pressure
The lack of time and the increase of pressure to do more with less can prohibit the availability of resources who may be critical to improvement services.

Solution: Make sure this is accounted for in the planning stage. In the long run, by applying service design methodology it will save your organisation time which is currently being spent on complex and sometimes unnecessary processes.

Barrier 5: Lack of buy in
This is key. Some organisations still feel like engaging with consumers and patients is a waste of time. They see it as a “nice to have,” but not essential, or they think it’s too expensive and something that just slows down the development process.

Solution: There needs to be a change in mindset. Everyone from the top down will need to get on board. 

Barrier 6: It’s too hard!
Short term thinking may be the biggest challenge you will come across. People are making short-term decisions as knee-jerk reactions to budget cuts and creating work arounds for problematic processes instead of addressing the real source of the problem.

Solution: Remember the bigger picture when thinking of service design. Even if we start with small projects and build up to that large change at least we are making a difference. 

Communication is paramount. Ultimately applying service design to your organisation is extremely rewarding, although you may need to overcome some of these challenges along the way. Read more here.


4. 4 Ideas to Improve Your Healthcare Service Design

With the rise of a global pandemic along with aging populations and other conditions, there has never been a greater need for quality medical services. The question is, how do you make the right decisions for your organisation to ensure your choice meets your objectives?


2se stories to help everyone refocus.
As healthcare providers, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day delivery of services. However, by taking a step back from this and breaking the patient journey into a storytelling format with steps, it will help your team with understanding service design by providing the bigger picture.

2Empower your patients to be more than passive consumers.
A powerful healthcare service design narrative highlights the role of patients. As many healthcare providers see their patients as simply recipients of care, this view might be holding back several important innovations in service design.

3Immerse yourself and your stakeholders in the service design process.
Now that service design in healthcare is becoming increasingly important, it can only succeed if you fully immerse yourself in the process, making sure to show, not just tell, your stakeholders about your visions for the future.

4Remember that the design is so much bigger than the sum of all interactions.
For both medical providers and patients, it’s easy to see healthcare simply as one interaction after another. But what about what happens between these interactions? Patient’s lives! Healthcare, then, needs to be viewed from this broader lens. 

How does improved service design make a difference? Read more here. 

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5.Defining the Patient Experience with Service Design

Define Patient ExperienceOne of the common misconceptions in the healthcare industry is that the patient experience should be focused predominantly on healthcare alone.

The general public’s rising expectations of healthcare services means that every provider must take steps to improve their patient interactions. 

Demonstrating care, compassion and open communication

Generally speaking, considering the patient experience has been an underutilised idea for improving healthcare services for many years. However, growing evidence points towards patients now looking for excellent, streamlined service as a highly important factor around their perception of a positive experience.

Creating a positive environment for staff-patient satisfaction

The key to improving service design when it comes to patient satisfaction levels revolves a lot around your teams and the systems that support them. More than anything, providing a positive patient experience also empowers your staff to feel fulfilled and satisfied with their work as well.

Service Design leads to a better patient experience

At NEXA, we believe in human-centred service design. Excellent service design ensures that all aspects of a patient’s healthcare journey make them feel valued and respected. It involves creating a positive environment for patients, staff, carers and volunteers through effective communication and the recognition of needs. Coupled with safe and high-quality care, service design minimises patient dissatisfaction and enables you to deliver a holistically pleasant experience – every time.

Read more here.

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6. How Service Design Blueprints can help you improve your patients’ journey

blueprintA service design blueprint is essentially the patient’s journey, mapped out from start to finish, with all of the supportive services included, showing the role each play at every stage.

For instance, the first patient step may be their interaction with the clinic when looking to book an appointment. So, at this initial touchpoint, the service blueprint would detail how the patient can book the appointment, such as calling or booking online, as well as what the systems and staff do at this point – and so on.

Why conduct a service design blueprint?

By spending the time mapping out the entire patient journey, it’s easier for your team to see where the best service is being provided and where improvements need to be made. A service design blueprint shows all of the systems and staff activities that support the patient journey so that these “behind the scenes” events can be identified and improved.

Getting things right behind the scenes

Much like in theatre, all activities observed or undertaken by patients are considered the ‘front stage’, whereas the backstage processes that they are unaware of are considered ‘behind the scenes’. Interactions with staff make up a significant portion of the patient’s front stage experience. 

Rethinking the service delivery process

Healthcare tends to be a high-pressure environment. So, mapping out a service blueprint can give your team more control. This includes breaking down the people, processes and resources that make up the patient experience. 

Translating this to the patient journey

Providing excellent customer service in any industry is no easy feat – and healthcare is no different. But there are ways to streamline the process and make the process easier both for the employees working behind the scenes and the patients receiving the services on the front stage. Therefore, if you want to streamline the process for the benefit of both your patients and your team, it’s important to map out a service design blueprint for your healthcare organisation.

Get in touch with NEXA for our Service Design consulting services, or read more about Service Design blueprints here.


7. What is design thinking and how does it relate to service delivery?

design thinking

Design thinking is an investigative and collaborative process that involves empathising with the users of a product or service to inform and improve upon its shortcomings. When applied to service delivery in a government context, design thinking requires decision-makers to challenge preconceived ideas about their customers, and instead, remain open to working with them towards alternative ways of meeting their needs.

• Looking beyond ingrained patterns of thinking
When faced with a problem, it’s human nature to jump to a solution using habitual thinking patterns. Overcoming this tendency in favour of ‘thinking outside the box’ allows service providers to question the conditions of the apparent problem, and provide an innovative solution.

• Empathising with your customers through consultation
Effective use of design thinking in service delivery starts with understanding the needs and expectations of your customers.

• Involving customers in co-creating solutions
Once the root issue is clear, placing your customers’ experience goals at the core of the redesign process will typically return the best possible results. 

• Getting it right through experimentation and iteration
Service redesign is rarely sequential, straightforward, or linear, and robust testing is in the best interest of both the organisation and its customers, long-term. 

• The benefits of employing design thinking are clear
Like all service providers, governments cannot afford to make assumptions about their customers’ needs, and while there is no silver bullet approach to perfecting service delivery, employing design thinking can go a long way towards co-creating the most valuable, meaningful service.

It stands to reason that involving customers in service problem identification and solution-based iteration, offers benefits to both governments and the very people they wish to serve. Read more about Design Thinking here.


8.  10 Things Every Service Based Organisation Needs to Do to Improve their Customer Experience

multi-channelWe’re living in a world of instant gratification, where the customer demands an enjoyable, valuable and convenient journey when interacting with your business.

Yet despite its critical importance, many service organisations struggle to provide a truly novel, visionary and exceptional customer experience. 

Here are 10 things you need to do to improve your CX:

  1. Build data-driven customer profiles
  2. Strive for research objectivity
  3. Provide comparison tools that are simple and solve the problem
  4. Provide personalisation as a means. Not an end
  5. Help your customer understand what they’re in for
  6. Be transparent about data and customer privacy
  7. Aim for multi-channel consistency
  8. Continually test, learn and iterate your UX
  9. Make your digital experience inclusive
  10. Reduce the customer waiting experience

Read more about this here.


9.  Designing services that deliver – Q & A with Katie Bowden


Katie Bowden, NEXA’s Service Design Director, has spent 12 years with the Local Health Districts in NSW Health as an information manager. She is passionate about informatics and making processes better for patients, and the people delivering them. In our short interview with Katie, she reveals how strategic Service Design leads to a new way of thinking.

Q. Why is it important in today’s world and will it continue to have a place as consumer behavior shifts online for many services?
Customers have become more tech-savvy and now more than ever have the power to research and choose between endless competitors providing similar services. Service Design can be used as an approach to bridge the gaps between what the organisation can do and what customers need and want. The result will be an experience that builds lasting customer relationships.

NEXA was integrally involved in the digital transformation at Service New South Wales (SNSW) and continues to support their service revolution. As an organisation, they have done an outstanding job of using Service Design principles to not only improve the customer experience but also the experience for their service providers, and in the process, demonstrate how effective and essential Service Design is to remain relevant to their customers. 

Q. How do organisations know if they need to address the design of their services?
As an organisation or service provider, if you have ever thought “there has to be a better way!”, then rest assured, your customers have too! There IS a better way…. and it can be achieved by Service Design.

Q. How is Service Design and Customer Experience related?
Service Design and Customer Experience are closely related and work hand-in-hand. Without good Service Design, customer experience suffers.

Q. Can you give us a before and after scenario of where Service Design had a major impact on customer experience?
A recent piece of work we completed at NEXA is Blacktown City Council. The service centre were experiencing increasing frustration from their customers which they were taking out on the council staff who were trying to serve them.

NEXA facilitated Blacktown City Council by putting a self-service kiosk at each entrance which allowed customers to select the services they required and take a ticket to join a virtual queue. The agent knows why the customer is there before they approach the desk and so can provide a more efficient service. Wait times have been reduced to under 3 minutes, service times are around 7 minutes and management can plan staff schedules and training according to the changing needs of their customers.

Read the full interview with Katie here.


9. Service design for the patient of the future

For any service design initiative to be successful, there are 5 core principles that form the foundation of service design:


By placing the patient in the centre of the service, service designers are able to   discover how the patient experiences the service in its wider context. This requires a deeper understanding of patients than statistical descriptors thus service design uses empathic approaches like interviews, observations and field research to gather insights to understand patient’s true motivations, social context and habits. It is important to map out and assess the patient’s needs, experiences and behaviors before co-creating a solution to be tested iteratively.


This is the process of involving stakeholders not only in the design of the solution but also in the production and development of it. The development, creation and testing of these services is called co-creation and is usually done by multidisciplinary teams. Multidisciplinary teams allow various expertise, knowledge and skills, without which the solution would be very shallow. It creates a partnership between the professional groups as well as patients. Everyone has an opportunity to input their perspectives and experiences.


Iterative Process
One of the main features of services design is not avoiding making mistakes but simply learning from them. This is achieved by prototyping and testing on end- users and stakeholders. As a designer, you can save organizations a large amount of time and money if you test the experience before resources spend lengthy periods of time developing it.


Visual Communication
Service designers often use visual aids like sketches, pictures or prototypes to communicate. In a collaborative team environment, it can be more expressive to draw than use words. Visual tools can be less complicated and more tangible. Clear communication between stakeholders is essential for the implementation phase.


Holistic Services
Holistic Services are services that look at the whole patient journey and consider each touch point of that journey. Service blue prints, user journeys and scenarios investigate holistic patient experiences and touch points. 

Following the basic principles of service design, the practical and applied framework is the service design process. The objective of this 4 step process is to effectively and holistically manage the quality and consistency of service delivery including customer interactions and experiences across the organization.

Essentially service design is an iterative process, meaning that in every step of the process, service designers test possible solutions to learn from the mistakes in the previous iteration to improve the solution. This is achieved by prototyping and creating something visual early in the process so that the team can have meaningful discussions and make improvements.

The 4 important aspects of how the process of service design can be used in the healthcare setting to successfully implement change are:

  1. Exploration
  1. Creation
  1. Reflection
  1. Implementation

You can read more details about this 4 step process here.


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