• Michal Jerzy

Decrypting Service Design Terminology

Updated: Dec 13, 2021

While working in the service design / experience design domain within large corporate organisations I found that establishing a shared understanding of key service design terminology helps in driving design activities forward, securing support from the key stakeholders (who often initially have limited understanding of service design or even design discipline), and develop service design capability within the organisation.


It is only natural that as humans we all make assumptions when we come across a new term for the first time; or on the other way when we communicate with others assuming people who are listening to us would understand the meaning of words we are saying. Every corporate organisation has a language that helps its members communicate, jargon, abbreviations, cultural or organisational references deeply imbedded within the organisation. In the same way the service design practice and community of its practitioners has developed over the years terminology with shared understanding regardless if a project is based in UK, Netherlands, Poland, US or Spain.


People who work in service design often refer to unique and specific terminology and phrases. For example: journey mapping, customer experience (or, CX), pain points, user experience design (UX), service blueprint, insights and ‘aha’ or ‘wow’ moments, or ‘moments of truth’. Those terms are important and allow us to communicate ideas, tools and actions quickly. Whenever I start working with a new organisation to help embed service design thinking in its approach to transformation, customer service operations or experience design, at the beginning of that journey I always spend time establishing a shared understanding of some of the key terms. Those terms will ultimately end up in many corporate presentations delivered to key stakeholders or decision-makers within an organisation.




Here are some of the most commonly used service design terms and phrases - a basic introduction to decrypting service design and a good list to start sharing understanding of service design, its tools and best practices.




Customer: A person (or an organisation / group of people ) who purchases our services or products. In is an imperative to understand different needs of our customers so we are able to provide them with the right level of service, appealing product or help they seek.


Customer Experience (CX): The sum of all experiences a customer has regarding a certain service, product, or brand.


Customer Journey: A series of actions that a customer undertakes in order to achieve a certain outcome / experience / objective / fulfil their need.


Customer Journey Map: visual systematic representation of customer and user interactions over time as they engage with an organization and the services or products it provides. End-to-end customer journey map can visualize the overall experience a customer has with a service, a physical or digital product, or a brand. It depicts step-by-step how a user interacts with a service or a product.

The process is mapped from the user perspective, describing what happens at each stage of the interaction, what touchpoints are involved, what obstacles and barriers they may encounter. The journey map is often integrated an additional layers representing the level of positive/negative emotions experienced throughout the interaction. Journey maps help organisations manage and orchestrate customer experience find gaps in customer experience and explore potential solutions to identified pain-points, opportunities for improvements or new propositions.


Customer Lifecycle Map: is a holistic visualisation of a customer's overall relationship with a service provider. This may include a series of customer journeys over time, from the customers initial contact with a service or the organisation, right through to the point where they eventually stop using it all together.

Customer Segment: A group of customers with a shared need that an organization identifies as it's core target groups for service or product delivery


Co-Create: It is a core aspect of service design approach and toolkit. It means to create jointly, in collaboration with numerous subject matter experts, end-users, stakeholders; bringing together their personal expertise and experiences to define ideas for a solution to a problem or an opportunity. It refers to participants' interactivity, initiative and style of collaboration and contribution in design events. User roles may vary from proactive participation where users contribute to solving and framing design challenges, to more passive roles where designers instead interpret user data with limited / or without any engagement with the end-user community.


Design: is a method of problem solving and of creation. It is a state of mind and a discipline focused on the interaction between a person - a 'user' and the man-made environment, taking into account aesthetic, functional, contextual, cultural and societal considerations.

Design Thinking: represents systematic approach to guide idea creation, problem solving and project execution to deliver business value and customer centric solutions, to innovate physical or digital products or services based on co-creation along the core activities of Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test.


Double Diamond: Double Diamond is the name of a design process model popularized by the British Design Council in early 2000s that breaks down a structured design approach to tackle challenges in four phases: Discover /Research— insight into the problem (diverging) Define/Synthesis — the area to focus upon (converging) Develop/ Ideation— potential solutions (diverging) Deliver /Implementation— solutions that work (converging).


Design Process: Over the last two decades, since the initial framework of the Double Diamond model, a number of design processes have been framed by practitioners and branded differently. There might be differences in the exact wording or terminology, but those ultimately share the same mindset and the same principles of human centred design: A) Explore, Create , Evaluate; B) Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver; C) Insight, Idea, Prototyping and Delivery; D) Discovering, Concepting, Designing, Building, Implementing.


Design Scenarios: are hypothetical stories and concepts, created with sufficient detail to meaningful explore a particular aspect of a service offering or a product. For a digital service it could be a low fidelity visual, click-through prototype. For a physical experience it could be a low fidelity 3D model.


Design System: a collection of repeatable components and a set of design standards guiding the use of those components for the purpose of designing digital products. While a style guide or pattern library can be a starting point for a design system, they are not the only components. The visual design language is the core of a design system. It’s made up of the discernible components that you’ll use to construct your digital product including visual design language ( colour, typography, sizing and spacing, imagery), UI/ pattern library. It is a single source of truth for design teams, one place to manage brand and UX components, coded elements, detailed documentation, and more so teams can stay in sync. Design system should empower and inspire your design team rather than be a policing tool. Design community across the organisation should have the ability to contribute to the design system thus creating a sense of shared ownership.


Empathize: To relate to another person's experience by having gone through that same experience yourself, or immersing yourself in what that experience could be through recollection and memories of others. Gaining a clear understanding of the situation from the perspective of current and potential customers of a certain service is crucial for successful service design.


Employee experience: The specific experiences of employees within an organization.


Experience Design: The creation of services, products, touch-points, events, omnichannel journeys and environments that are centred around influencing people's experience, focused on the quality of the user experience and culturally relevant solutions. (usually used synonymously with service design or design thinking). Experience design draws on users’ needs, feelings, contexts, and mindsets to design experiences that center on them. It is tying together human, digital, and physical interactions over time to create a truly differentiated experience for your customers. Experience design is not driven by a single design discipline.


Ethnography: The scientific description of the behaviours, values, and beliefs of different peoples and cultures. Design ethnography allows the team to work from the perspective of end-users/customers on new designs for relevant experiences of their daily lives. Designers use this understanding to work on idea generation, concept development and implementation. A strong connection between design and ethnographic research is important for successful service design project.


End-to-End Service: A service that accounts for user experience across any and all touchpoints, from the initial moment they have a need until the end where they have resolved their need for help.

Human-Centred Design: The design process that use human needs as a core reference point. It is an approach and philosophy that empowers the teams and individuals designing products, services, systems, and experiences to address the core needs of those who experience a problem.

Insight: A realization or understanding regarding the root cause of an event, experience or issue. For example customer insights include overall analysis of data we capture from customers that inform us about their experiences, needs, perceptions etc, whether through feedback, complaints, NPS score, digital analytics or observational research.


JTBD (Jobs-To-Be-Done): the JTBD lane within a customer journey map describes what a particular service or product, whether physical or digital, helps customers to achieve - either for the entire journey ,ap or for specific steps of it. It helps to challenge existing setup through the lens of customer value-add rather then provider's existing legacy processes.

KPI: Key Performance Indicator - a metric, or set of metrics that indicate how a person or organization is progressing towards a defined goal.


Need (User/ Customer Need): An aspect of a person's life with which they require help or assistance.


Moments of Truth (or Moments that Matter): A critical, decisivve moment when a customer forms an impression of an organization, brand or service. Important moment in a customer journey, usually linked to their core need they are seeking to fulfil. Service design is the craft of tying together human, digital, and physical interactions over time to create a truly differentiated experience for your customers. Delivering great service can be challenging, but you can use design thinking to understand people's needs, look holistically at customer interactions, and constantly iterate your way forward and to design moments that people will remember (Moments that Matter).


NPS: Net promoter score is a widely used market research metric that typically takes the form of a single survey question asking respondents to rate the likelihood that they would recommend a company. It is an index ranging from -100 to +100 that measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company's products or services to others. It is used as a proxy for gauging the customer's overall satisfaction with a company's product or service and the customer's loyalty to the brand. When your NPS falls you know that you have a problem, but not why or where.

Pain point: A moment within a person's experience where they feel discomfort, stress, challenge, difficulties or pain.


Persona: A fictional profile representing a particular group of people, such as a group of customers or users, a market segment, a subset of employees, or any other stakeholder group. It is often developed as a way of representing a particular group based on their shared interests, needs, goals, demographics etc. They represent a 'character' with which client and design teams can engage. Personas can provide a range of different perspective on a service or a product, allowing design teams to define and engage the different interest groups that may exist within their target market. Effective personas can shift design focus from abstract demographics to the wants and needs of real people.


Prototype: Prototypes can be anything from rough design sketches, scribbles of the interface of a website or app, digital click-through mock-ups or more high fidelity working pieces of experimental code that already on a device. They also might be embedded into a more holistic service prototype to explore or evaluate the role of the artefact or software in the life of its user.

CX Qualitative research: In-depth research that seeks to determine the qualities and features of peoples experience.

CX Quantitative research: Research that seeks to quantify and measure customer/user experiences.


ROI (Return on Investment): What it received in exchange for investing energy in an action


Service Design: A co-creative and iterative approach leveraging design thinking to create or improve services along the core activities of research, ideation, prototyping, and implementation. Service design is all about making services you deliver useful, usable, efficient, effective and desirable. It helps organisations see their services from a customer perspective. The core principles of service design include: Human-centred (consider the experience of all the people affected by the service), Collaborative (Stakeholders of various backgrounds and functions should be actively engaged in the service design process), Iterative (Service design is exploratory, adaptive and experimental approach, iterating toward implementation), Sequential (It should visualise and orchestrate as a sequence of interrelated actions), Real (Customer and user needs should be researched in reality, ideas prototyped in reality), Holistic (services should sustainably address the needs of all stakeholders through the entire service and across the business).


Service Blueprint: It is a detailed specification that captures the entire process of service delivery, by listing all the activities that happen at each stage, performed by the different roles involved both in the front-end (customer facing) and back-end.


The service blueprint is built by first listing all the actors involved in the service process on a vertical axis, and all the steps required to deliver the service on the horizontal axis. The resulting matrix allows to represent the flow of actions that each role needs to perform along the process, highlighting the actions that the user can see (above the line of visibility) and the ones that happen in the back-office (below the line of visibility). Roles can be performed by human beings or other types of entities (organizations, departments, artificial intelligences, machines, etc.)

By describing and outlining all of the elements contained within a service, the blueprint allows the most crucial areas to be identified, whilst also revealing areas of overlap or duplication. Producing such a document collaboratively promotes co-operation and teamwork, and also helps to co-ordinate the people and resources the service provider has at its disposal.


Service Ecosystem: The larger context in which products and services are experienced which involves a network of other products, services, systems, and stakeholders (Such as competitors, government organizations etc).


Service Safari: During a service safari, designers, researchers and project team members are asked to go out into the real world and explore examples of what they think are good and bad service experiences relevant to the given service design project.


Service Prototype: a simulation of service experience that can range from being informal role-play style conversations, to more detailed full scale recreations involving active user-participants, physical or digital touchpoint, low fidelity prototypes, design sketches etc.

System Thinking: is an approach to problem-solving that views 'problems' as part of a wider, dynamic system. It focuses on the way that a system's constituent parts interrelate and how systems work over time and within the context of larger systems. ... According to systems thinking, system behavior results from the effects of reinforcing and balancing processes.


Stakeholder: A person, group or organization that is somehow connected to, or has an interest in the outcomes of a particular service. A successful service design initiative / project requires integrating stakeholders as early as possible in the project development process, through initial research, exploration and co-creation.


Silo: barriers that prevent communication, sharing or collaboration between different people, groups, or departments within organisations.


Stakeholder Map: A stakeholder map illustrates the various stakeholders involved in an experience, these maps can be used to understand who is involved and how these connections can be optimized; who are the key influencers and decision makers; who we are designing for. By representing staff, customers, partner organisations and other stakeholders in this way the interplay between these various groups can be charted and analysed.


Shadowing: Shadowing involves researchers and designers immersing themselves in the lives of customers or end-users, front-line staff or people behind the scenes in order to observe their behaviours and experiences, capture insights and lessons learned and seek inspiration for ideas development.


Success Metrics: The success metrics are a set of criteria defined alongside the service or product design and development as key factors that will define the success of the project itself and of its final implementation. It’s always important to distinguish amongst these two levels (project and final service outcomes) as they generate different types of values. Once the metrics are defined, it’s also important to identify a strategy for their measurement (how data is collected and when), keeping in mind the importance of accessing that information in several moments of the process, and being able to use it to adjust the workflow and features developed.


Storytelling: is a method of sharing insights and new design concepts. Compelling narratives and visual presentations can be constructed for all aspects of a company's service from the lives of its customers, to staff experiences and the services experience it provides.


Touchpoint (Service or Experience Touchpoint): All interactions of a customer with a brand are called 'touch-points' and can involve different channels such as TV, website, mobile app, in-branch/in-store experience, phone call, e-mail, advertisement, online form or a letter.


A/B Testing: it is a user experience research methodology. A/B tests consist of a randomized experiment with two variants, A and B. Comparing two versions of a webpage or app against each other to determine which one performs better. It includes application of statistical hypothesis testing or "two-sample hypothesis testing" as used in the field of statistics.

User-Centred: The notion that services that are provided are focussed on addressing the needs of the users who engage with that service.


Value Proposition: Summarizes the offering of a company such as it’s products or services, including the unique selling proposition that distinguishes it from its competitors

Voice of the Customer: Insights communicating to us how a customer is articulating their own lived experience in relation to a product or service. In contrary to NPS score, strong Voice of the Customer loops and listening points can show why and where are the reasons behind change to the overall NPS score.





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