Levels of zoom in Service Design

Megan Erin Miller on 2023-03-17

Service design requires working at several levels of zoom to effectively design and deliver quality experiences. Here is a model for understanding this multi-level approach in practice.

A model of experience

One of the challenges of doing service design in practice, is that it requires you to influence and operate at a wide variety of levels of zoom to ensure success. At each level, you are interacting and collaborating with different roles and partners, and requires different “deep T” expertise to successfully apply relevant methods and approaches in your work.

Service designers have to be nimble and able to see the big picture and zoom into the details. As a service is made of up a wide variety of touchpoints (points of interaction between the customer and business — think: website, app, phone call, billing statement, store, shipping notifications, etc.), by nature, we have to be able to zoom into the touchpoint level. But in order to engage the business in orchestrating a multi-touchpoint relationship with the customer (the service experience), we have to be able to engage in strategic discussions and planning to set the conditions for success for the “encounters” with the service.

So, let’s look at these levels of zoom and the practical methodology and approaches applied at each.

1) Usability

The specific experience of interacting with the touchpoint (how easy to use is the interface)

A the most granular level, we are looking at the user interface of the touchpoint — the actual interaction that a customer is having with that touchpoint. This can be (and often is these days) digital, however, I am also talking about touchpoints that can be in any channel. You can (and should) be considering good usability principles in any medium that you are creating points of interaction: How usable is your point of sale pin pad? Your physical brochure mailer? Your sign-in station at the front desk?

Methodology that is often engaged at this level is:

2) User Experience

The overall experience of the task that engages the customer with the touchpoint

The next level up is looking at the user experience of the task (or suite of tasks), that would engage the customer in navigating the touchpoint. This is where you look at the flow of the experience, not just the interface, and the overall experience that this is creating for the user. This often is the domain of UX designers or Product Designers, looking at the application or product that the interface is part of.

Methodology that is often engaged at this level is:

3) Service Experience

The all-encompassing customer experience across multiple online and offline touchpoints along the entire customer journey

A service by nature creates a relationship over time with a customer, providing and performing service for customer benefit. This experience can span hours, or years, and encompasses all the touchpoints (often owned by different parts of the organization). The design of a good service experience needs to take into account the complexity of the ecosystem of touchpoints that are encompassed in the service experience (as well as the touchpoints not part of the experience that the customer leverages!). Therefore the design at the service experience level looks different than at the touchpoint level, and you need to be able to look end-to-end, holistically to orchestrate a good experience.

Methodology that is often engaged at this level is:

4) Service Strategy

The strategy for the particular offering, including its value proposition for the customer and the model to support delivery

Strategically, where should we take our service, program, or offering? How do we get there? These are the questions that we have to answer in order to unblock the design of specific service experiences. These are service strategy activities, and require engaging a higher-level set of stakeholders to align on the strategic direction of the service and how the organization might deliver it. Aligning on your service strategy will help to provide clarity and understand viability of service concepts. Ideally, this strategy is informed by user research.

Methodology that is often engaged at this level is:

5) Business Strategy

The overarching business strategy that the service enables us to achieve as an organization

As designers, we cannot escape the impact that the overarching business strategy has on our work, and engaging at this level may be necessary to ensure conditions for success for the service experience. While you may not be in a position of authority or access to allow you direct influence at this level, finding sponsors that can help connect the dots for the organization between the business strategy, the service strategy, and the experience is important to successful service design work. At this level, we are also understanding how our specific service fits into a larger ecosystem of offerings that the business provides.

Methodology that is often engaged at this level (as it pertains to Service Design):

These are by no means an exhaustive list of activities, and many methods can be applied at different levels of zoom.

Now, you might see this list and think, “Megan, that’s impossible! One person cannot do all these things well,” … and you would be right! Figure out where your “deep T” is, and build out from there. If your background is in UX Design and you want to expand to do more service design or service strategy work, start learning and applying the methods at the next level to grow your experience and expertise.

The more that we as service designers can do to understand how to adeptly navigate these levels of zoom, create alignment across all levels, and partner with roles who have “deep T” expertise (UI Designers, IA Designers, UX Designers, Strategists, business leaders), the more successful our efforts will be to create valuable, memorable, and quality service experiences.

This article references ideas and approaches outlined in the following publication: Patrício, Lia & Fisk, Raymond & Falcão e Cunha, João & Constantine, Larry. (2011). Multilevel Service Design: From Customer Value Constellation to Service Experience Blueprint. Journal of Service Research. 14. 180–200. 10.1177/1094670511401901.

You should give this article a 👏🏻 or 50! And connect with me:

Making an impact should be practical, by design. Transform your work, your organization, and your customers with practical methods that really work at www.practicalbydesign.co