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Customer experience vs service design – Different, but the same…

What is CX (Customer Experience Design), what is SD (Service Design) and what is the difference? The debate often rages here at DNA between practitioners and offices, but I think the answer is simple. 

idealog grenville main service design customer experience designMany people assume CX is more commercially driven by organisations that are in competitive segments, and that SD is focused on when there is less competition or where the organisation can be more focused on their needs, their processes, their ROI and on lowering their cost to serve. Not so.

It’s true, CX overtly starts with the customer in mind, and SD is often employed because of change and or transformation. But that is too simple.

Both place users at the heart of the solution, and unless the business value is clear, then that solution is not the right one. Important to both are changing technological, organisational, ethnographic and social science factors. Design is the common base of the service we deliver to each.

Customer experience design (CX or CXD) is defined by being customer-led, and is typically adopted by private sector organisations in competitive segments where customer service can differentiate or improve user value or experience – and  can therefore make a difference to business and brand performance. The approaches used bring the customer to life and place the user at the centre of any service, product or channel.

Case study: How to make customer experience design (CxD) work for you

Service design is often seen as the domain of the public sector, and the way to approach transformation and lowering the cost to serve. It often starts with business drivers, and factors the possible user experience gains into a project – often a large programme of work.

As we see it, they are one and the same. If you prioritise business value over user value (or vice versa) you are skewing the outcome and missing massive opportunity – in both public and private sectors. User-centred design, design research, empathy and the like, balanced with business, and technical requirements are pivotal to the success of any project, be it a small iteration in customer experience in one channel or a full end-to-end service transformation.

Case study: Customer experience by design

In each case, a business or organisation should be looking to optimise channels, find efficiency, improve engagement and usage, unlock customer value and improve preference through any investment. We deploy the same people, the same processes and tools, and in many cases very similar approaches to deliver CX and SD assignments.

We use lean UX, rapid prototyping, a highly agile and collaborative model, analytics and research. Tools include customer insight, journey mapping, service blueprints, developing personas and prototypes, a range of testing and more. Typically we collaborate, co-create, prototype, work with lean approaches and test like mad along the way.

Customer experience design and service design are different things, but they are way more alike than they can at first seem. Either way, unless you are clear on the problem you need to solve and how you’ll measure effect, it’s probably to early to jump into either.

Grenville Main is managing director of customer experience design consultancy DNA, a rabid collector and proud owner of the most obscenely messy desk in each of DNA’s offices.

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