Ideas by Andrew Schellenbach

How can service design create breakthrough experiences for digital products?

Digital product development is complex. Organizations often overlook the experience surrounding the products they’re building and the ecosystems these products exist in. In today’s competitive landscape, it isn’t enough to identify a problem and start building a solution. Here’s how service design can craft meaningful customer experiences and help digital products deliver more value.

Most often, companies will discover a market gap and start designing a solution. Yet, many organizations focus on delivering the functional aspects of their products, like the unique features they offer, without understanding what their customers actually need and desire. It’s not uncommon for organizations to not even consider the value that their solution offers in the larger ecosystems surrounding the product and their customers.

In fact, 88% of customers say that the experience a company provides is just as important as the product offered, yet only 31% report having a high-quality experience.1 So, what can companies do to provide more value in their products and improve the experiences they’re offering, and how can service design help?

The common denominator in product success

Think of some of the most groundbreaking digital products. What comes to mind?

More often than not, you’ll have thought about a product that provides you value on a daily basis. It might be your iPhone, it might be a health-related tool, or it might even be your car. Regardless, it will have been a product that provides a meticulously designed customer experience that impacts the ecosystem it exists in.

Some companies do an excellent job of building exceptional experiences that put customers’ needs first. Let’s look beyond solutions that have crafted their own standout ecosystems, like Apple’s integrated offerings, with some breakthrough products in competitive and seemingly saturated markets.

TikTok:
  • Smartphone users were inundated with a variety of social media offerings, including X (Twitter), Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, YouTube, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and countless others. Yet, TikTok broke through.
  • What is novel about TikTok? We could already share short-form video clips on a plethora of other platforms, we could already follow our friends and favourite influencers, and we could already engage in the same ways that TikTok offers.
  • While TikTok was in its growth phase, it was focused on the user experience and optimized content for view time, while other platforms had already reached peaks in daily active users and were looking at revenue models and focusing on clicks and engagement.3
  • They understood the importance of user satisfaction and retention, crafting personalized feeds based on each user’s individual viewing history and preferences. The platform provided ease of use without the possibility of user error, which created a unique and satisfying user experience.
  • TikTok had also made it easy to share content that was being hosted on their platform across the rest of the ecosystem, meeting customers where they were.
Jane App:
  • Jane is a flexible, real-time online booking tool for healthcare practices that considers the entire end-to-end experience, both the patient and end-users use of the product and the clinic’s back-of-house operational processes.
  • While Jane started as a solution to an individual healthcare practice’s challenges, it has since successfully scaled with little to no marketing because it is rooted in solving real needs.
  • Jane started with half a dozen (a sweet spot for qualitative data) early adopters who essentially co-created and iterated from the minimum viable product, and continues to recognize that there is always more to do with new ways to do it.4

So, how did these companies craft breakthrough customer experiences while over 80% of startups and new products fail2? What are the gaps and how can we bridge them?

Bridging the gaps with service design

Rushing to solutions without a continuous discovery process, a deep understanding of problems, using limited testing methods, and siloed team dynamics are among the biggest culprits that can stunt the success of an otherwise great product idea.

Here are 5 service design methodologies that offer an approach to overcome these challenges and ensure digital products can provide enriched experiences:

1. Mixed Method Design Research: Uncovering Deeper Insights

It’s critical to go beyond the standard research methods by adopting a mixed-method approach. Too often, organizations guide their decision-making on a single data point, like a survey. Selecting the right tools for the right job – whether interviews, surveys, prototypes, or other methods, and blending qualitative with quantitative techniques enables a nuanced exploration of user needs and behaviors, providing a solid foundation for informed design decisions.

2. Co-Creation and Rapid Experimentation: Innovating with Real User Collaboration

At the heart of Bridgeable’s methodology is co-creation–a collaboration where key stakeholders including customers build concepts together with our clients, sharing their knowledge, perspectives, and personal experiences. This participatory approach, coupled with rapid experimentation ensures that solutions emerge from collective intelligence and are refined based on real customer input. This iterative process fosters innovation and validates concepts in real-world scenarios, aligning solutions with the genuine needs and expectations of end-users.

3. Holistic Customer Experience Design: Seamless Integration for Lasting Impact

Exceptional customer experiences extend beyond the surface interactions. Holistic customer experience design addresses both customer-facing and operational components. This approach ensures a seamless integration of systems, contributing to meaningful and valuable customer experiences at every touchpoint.

4. Implementation and Change Management: From Concept to Reality

Delivering best-in-class customer experiences often requires us to look internally as well. Conceptualizing solutions is just the beginning – true impact lies in successful implementation. A critical link between design concepts and real-world execution is effective change management. Change management ensures that new solutions are seamlessly embedded into the organizational framework. Implementation is not just about technology but also about effective communication, people, processes, and a carefully managed transition to new ways of operating.

5. Organizational Design Leadership: Embedding Service Design for Long-Term Success

This involves embedding and sustaining service design principles at the organizational level, ensuring that the organization builds a culture of customer-centricity focused on cross-functional collaboration and continuous feedback loops. By becoming integral to the company’s DNA, service design principles should continue to guide decision-making and innovation long after specific projects are completed. This strategic leadership ensures that service design isn’t just a temporary solution but becomes an enduring part of the company’s culture, driving long-term success and adaptability in a rapidly evolving market.

The recipe for customer needs and competitive advantage

Service design is not a quick fix; it’s a practice that yields results when applied with intent and rigor. It is a dynamic blend of research, collaboration, holistic design, effective implementation, and visionary leadership – a recipe for not just meeting but exceeding customer needs while ensuring sustained success for businesses. Embedding service design can help you to:

  • De-risk solutions at the start of development and throughout the life cycle of the product
  • Create meaningful customer experiences
  • Build brand loyalty and customer retention

Unlocking the full potential of digital products requires a shift toward service design, where a deep understanding of user needs, collaboration, and a holistic approach to design leads to a breakthrough product that supports the ecosystem it exists within.


1. Salesforce. Customer Engagement Research. 2022. https://www.salesforce.com/news/stories/customer-engagement-research/

2. Gage, D. The Venture Capital Secret: 3 Out of 4 Start-Ups Fail. Wall Street Journal. 2012. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10000872396390443720204578004980476429190?ns=prod%2Faccounts-wsj

3. Paul, K. From dance videos to global sensation: what you need to know about TikTok’s rise. The Guardian. 2022. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/oct/22/tiktok-history-rise-algorithm-misinformation

4. Jane App. Our Story: The unique upbringing of our very own Jane. Jane. 2024. https://jane.app/story

 

Illustration by Aqil Raharjo, Service Designer


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