Navigating Success in Service Design

Read time 14 mins

In an era defined by advancements in AI and devices, shifting consumer expectations and intense competition, the imperative to deliver exceptional services has risen to unprecedented heights.

Customers are now more connected, informed, and empowered than ever before. They demand frictionless experiences across multiple touchpoints and expect it as their new baseline expectation.

Such a shift calls for a holistic approach to service design that transcends individual products or channels. One that focuses on crafting end-to-end experiences that continuously delight and authentically engage customers at every step of their journey.

But understanding, navigating and then implementing effective service design programmes is challenging.

Where do organisations begin on this journey? How do they measure success, and who drives this significant change internally?

Understanding the state of play

To explore this further, we commissioned a survey to understand the current use and effectiveness of service design within UK organisations.

Our survey focuses on the key questions and challenges organisations have when planning and delivering service design initiatives, including:
  • How is service design defined?
  • How much investment and time is allocated to service design initiatives?
  • How is the impact of service design measured?
  • Who is responsible for implementing service design?
  • The key factors when choosing service design providers

What the survey revealed

Here are just some of the key findings:

38% admitted they couldn't define service design and were missing out on higher revenue potential.
40% admitted they don't know what impact service design projects have.
15% admitted they do not measure the impact of service design.
39%only allocate budgets of £50k and 25% up to £100k into service design.


Censuswide conducted the research with 1002 18+ Respondents who are business consultants, product consultants, strategy consultants or director, head, manager or lead across procurement, research, design, strategy, transformation, marketing and IT between 21.02.2023 - 27.02.2023.

Defining service design

There’s a significant need for more awareness and understanding surrounding service design.
38% admitted to not knowing what service design is.
Of the remaining 62% who provided a description*
*only 3% matched our definition of service design.
These findings underscore the need for clarity, education, and a concerted effort to inform organisations about the value and potential of service design.

To fully capitalise on the benefits of service design and effectively deliver projects, organisations must first develop a clear understanding of what service design entails and how to measure its success.

Our definition

“Service design is a human-centred approach that aims to improve services across multiple touchpoints, taking into account the end user and the organisation's people, technology, and processes.”
Service design is similar to running a restaurant. You want to ensure everything is perfect, so you plan every detail. You think about the menu, the seating and the environment while also thinking about how the staff serve you and how the kitchen provides multiple meals. It's a way of thinking about how to make a service, like going to a store or using an app, as enjoyable and easy as possible for the people who will use it.

By carefully planning and coordinating all the elements, service design ensures that customers can have a pleasant and timely experience, whether in a restaurant, using an app, or any other service. It's about making sureeverything works harmoniously, just like a well-run restaurant where customers can comfortably sit, enjoy their meal, and leave with a smile.
"Customer-centric businesses are up to 60% more profitable than companies that don't focus on customers."

Investment in service design

Our survey also shows a significant challenge is investing sufficient budgets and time into service design programmes.
39% of respondents only invest up to £50k, while a quarter of respondents allocate marginally more up to £100k.
Identifying problems
Identifying problems and a change strategy
Average cost of product to MVP
This average investment doesn’t stretch to deliver change programmes.
Identifying problems
Identifying problems and a change strategy
Average investment ends here
Continuous lean change
The primary issue with such budgets is that they focus more on discovering problems than implementing the necessary changes and enabling long-term change.

Service design often results in a roadmap for the future, providing a vision of what needs to happen. However, the overall impact remains limited without proper guidance on implementing those changes.

As businesses commission service design programmes, respondents said they expect to see long-term change within 2 weeks - 3 months.

Implementation of change has a firm end, leaving very little time to explore creating an environment ready to adapt to change initiatives.

While businesses may have numerous ideas and concepts, they require assistance translating them into actionable implementation plans. This aspect of service design—facilitating the execution of ideas—needs more attention and investment.

Measuring success

When measuring success, almost 40% of respondents admit not knowing their service design projects' impact, with 15% admitting to not measuring impact at all.
These findings highlight a notable gap in evaluating the effectiveness and value of service design initiatives.
40% don’t know the 
15% don’t measure impact at all.
This research highlights a substantial disconnect between what people understand and know about service design, and what it actually is and does.

As an industry, we need to address this gap if businesses are to harness the power of service design as part of wider organisational and long-term business change, and then be able to measure its impact and success.
Colin Preston
Product & Service Design Director, Code
Among those who measure impact, customer satisfaction emerges as the most important measure of success, accounting for 40% of responses.
While customer satisfaction is a crucial metric, it represents only one aspect of the overall picture. Solely focusing on customer satisfaction neglects other vital dimensions contributing to service design projects' success.
Our research also indicates an inward focus on team-related metrics. Team efficiency, cited by 34%, and team effectiveness, mentioned by 30%, rank high among the success measures.

While these metrics provide valuable insights into internal operations, they present a limited perspective when evaluating the overall impact of service design.
By fixating on singular metrics, organisations inadvertently create silos of focus within their teams. For instance, marketing teams may solely concentrate on acquiring more users without considering their conversion into paying customers.

This narrow approach can hinder holistic understanding and overlook the interconnectedness of different metrics.

Success measures should encompass a broader scope, including the effects on customers, employees, and overall business performance.

It is crucial to shift the narrative and prioritise the measurement of success and impact in service design initiatives. Impact measures must be in place to gain buy-in from board-level executives, secure higher budgets, and fully capitalise on the potential of service design.

Ownership of service design

Only 5% of survey respondents said they had a dedicated service design owner and 10% have no specific person or role assigned as the primary responsibility for service design.
Even among those with designated positions, the numbers remain relatively low. The highest percentage belongs to the Lead of Customer Experience (CX) at 12%, followed by the Lead of IT at almost 11%.

This again suggests that organisations need a clearer understanding of what service design entails and also help identify the individuals or roles best suited to oversee and drive service design efforts. These individuals may need to learn the necessary skills and experience to effectively lead or champion service design within their organisations.

Breaking down silos

Interestingly, our research highlights that service design is primarily happening within product teams and usually in sprint cycles. This approach allows focused attention on user journeys and provides smaller circles of influence. However, this limited scope presents a challenge when integrating service design holistically across different business areas.

The presence of silos within organisations further exacerbates the need for service designers. However, without a designated service owner, challenges arise as service designers manage conversations with the C-suite but struggle to drive actionable change.

From this, it's evident that service design should be a process and a team effort. Relying on a single role to shoulder the entire service design process may not be sustainable or practical. Instead, a multidisciplinary team approach should be used, drawing upon individuals' unique skills and expertise, much like in a product team.

Service delivery

Implementing service experiences

Specialist practitioners


Service delivery

CX Owner
Measurement & Data

Product delivery

Creating and shipping products

Multi-discipline product teams

Product Design

Businesses need to buy in skills to deliver service design

38% of respondents consider the availability of skilled professionals as a primary factor when selecting a service design agency.
This highlights the growing awareness of the significance of expertise in driving successful service design outcomes. However, the absence of a standardised approach to assess and procure services poses a significant obstacle.

A cost-driven approach often prevails in organisations, which can impact the success of service design initiatives. This approach fails to recognise skills' vital role in executing practical service design projects. Particularly internally, where experienced professionals may need more support, the absence of an experienced leader can hinder the progress and outcomes of service design endeavours.
38% said 'skilled professionals' is a primary factor when selecting a service design agency.

Key observations Six tips to get started with service design

  1. Create a clear definition of service design to gain traction and understanding of the value.
  2. Use business language to get buy-in from stakeholders and demonstrate how a human-centred approach positively impacts the bottom line.
  3. Measure effectively by focusing on internal and customer metrics to supercharge the changes you wish to make.
  4. Approach change initiatives outside of your product cycles to give the right amount of time to observe the impact of your change.
  5. Create ownership of the whole service via a team or small group of specialists so the task feels manageable.
  6. Break down service changes into smaller experiments to demonstrate impact quickly.

Has this research educated, surprised or inspired you? 

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