A New Vista for Service Design

Service Design
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The MAIM Class of 2014 shares their individual experiences of innovation, in the lead up to their Degree Show, Exploiting Chaos: Innovation in the Making.

Here, Momoko Tamada describes her insights as an Observer – guides to understanding cultural contexts as a way to be more critical an in turn, innovative.

From personal experience in ‘pure service’ organisations I believe that the dynamism of frontline staff plays an important role in service innovation. In other words, the key differentiator in services is usually the person who delivers the service to the customer.  This key factor however is often left undiscussed in service design innovation.  Although much of the current innovation discussion focuses on ‘service’, most lean towards the technological developments that can enrich the customer or user experience.  Feeling that the front-line staff element was missing, I sought to understand the reason for that gap in my research, while aiming to identify latent opportunities for innovation in service design.

When organizations give people a sense of meaning in their work, it’s not only good for employees, but it’s critical to build a healthy organization — one that is well-functioning and competitive. Keller and Price, 2011: Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage

Conducting research into the world of services from an employee-centric perspective, I began by reviewing the current relevant literature. This exercise allowed me to understand how services have been perceived, researched and practiced in recent decades within the context of design, innovation and motivation, which helped illustrate the theoretical landscape around the issues. Apart from and in parallel to the literature, I collected and reviewed several Service Design Tools and attended the Service Design Network Conference to explore current practices among the community of service design practitioners.


The current Service Design field is generally occupied by visually and digitally driven designers, although it is usually described as ‘cross-disciplinary’ or ’multi-disciplinary’.  As they are not particularly close to face-to-face service delivery touch points, the emotional aspects of frontline staff might be missing from the Service Design landscape. Service Designers can diversify and extend their reach by incorporating psychological aspects such as ‘flow’ into their theory and practice. Frameworks such as the ‘Satisfaction Mirror’ support the theory that this additional element will aid in exploring human interaction in the service journey, from the employee or front-line staff’s perspective.


Technological advancements will only increase, and continue to diversity the range of new services available. As these advancements continue, bringing with them not only opportunities but stark competition, it is important to remember that while technology is often easily replicable, an employee’s attitude towards their job is not as easy to imitate.


To learn more about service design innovation, and Momoko’s research, please join us at the MA Innovation Management upcoming Degree Show, Exploiting Chaos: Innovation in the Making, from the 18-22 June.